Jony Ive on Why the iPod Was Apple's First Wearable

Sir Jony Ive, who has been with Apple for 27 years, decided to do something different. It seems that the legendary co-designer of products such as the iPod, the iMac and the iPhone, the MacBook and the iPad has a kind of split vision. He is looking with one eye towards the past but also in the future to see how the former may inform the latter. He may be one of the most renowned designers in the world, working in an industry that tracks his every move.
I spoke with Anna Wintour, chief content officer at Conde Nast, and global editorial director at Vogue, during this year's RE-WIRED conference. We talked about the future of wearables, the power of quiet, and Steve Jobs' cultivated curiosity.

Sound Idea

Although it seems impossible to believe, 20 years have passed since the original iPod was released. It's easy to forget how revolutionary that tiny device was in today's world with 5G phones streaming music into wireless earbuds. In Tuesday's talk, I recalled that Apple had made general computing devices up until then. "And one thing that made the computer so special was its ability to be universally useful. The iPod was the first step towards creating more specific products and devices.

The iPod was created with so much thought, from the laser-etched metal to gloss-feeling plastic and even the color. White headphones were initially met with resistance and shock. People wondered why they would draw attention to something that was only an accessory. Apple was not content with this. The only thing people could see was the iPod's screen. The flashy white cables turned every user into a marketing gimmick for the new Apple mobile lifestyle.

I worked with Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and CEO. We were able to accomplish a lofty goal: create a design that was so distinctive it didn't require a logo or company name on it. It was almost unheard of to release a consumer tech product with no branding at all. But that gamble paid off. The iPod sold hundreds of millions and, with the introduction of the iTunes music shop, it changed the way people buy, listen, and experience music.

Ive points out that the iPod was Apple's very first piece of wearable tech. Ive believes that wearable technology is only going to become more personal. Wintour was told by him that there is no doubt that some of these products would disappear under our skin. He said, "I cannot think of anything more personal or specific, more individual and more intimate than what is inside us." However, he didn't say he was currently working on such a device. One has to wonder what other ideas he may have.

Life Lessons

Ive celebrated another important, but more serious, anniversary this fall. October 5, marked 10 years since Steve Jobs' death. Ive recalls his time with Jobs and finds that he is remembered less for his accomplishments than for his values and his priorities when it comes to his work style. I recall Jobs's "rejoicing, this celebration of being amazed" attitude. "Even though the surprise meant that he was wrong. He was more interested in learning than being right.

Over the past decade, Ive realized that curiosity is not something you are born with. It's something you have to cultivate and it takes a lot of effort. His most memorable times with Steve Jobs were when they were walking alongside each other and not talking much but still thinking close to one another. "In my experience, most of the most powerful ideas happen quietly and are fragile. They must be treated with respect and reverence so that they can grow into powerful ideas.

The Social Type

I left Apple in-house chief designer officer two years ago to form LoveFrom with Marc Newson, an industrial designer. It is comprised of many designers, architects, mathematicians and others. The group works with companies such as Apple, Montcler and Amazon Collective. LoveFrom's goal is to not only push design into the future but also find smarter ways to solve the climate change problem.

The origins of the first LoveFrom product are quite interesting. It's called LoveFrom Serif and is based on work by John Baskerville, a typographer more than 200 years ago. LoveForm was able to locate the original steel punches Baskerville used back in the 1700s to cast his typefaces. After scanning and redoing all the characters, the team now has more than 7000 different letterforms. It can also use modern styles to create them. It's an excellent example of Ive's philosophy of paying homage to the past and looking forward. This outlook is exemplified by the contrast between steel tools that are as tangible as design can get and digital shapes that are ethereal, manipulable, and digital.