After Steve Jobs, there is no one more associated with the iconic design of Apple products than Jony Ive. Yesterday, however, Apple announced that the long-time design chief would be leaving to start his own firm, called LoveFrom.
While the company said that Ive would continue to consult on future products, and that Apple would be LoveFrom's first customer, the news shocked the tech industry, and even sent Apple's stock falling over $9 billion in after-market trading.
It's hard to overstate the influence that Ive has had on the design of Apple products, but even more important than that is the influence he has had on our relationship with technology.
Here are four ways Ive's design changed both Apple and, as a result, the way we all feel about technology.
1. Technology can be beautiful.
There's no question that Apple makes beautiful devices. Design is the signature feature of most of the company's computers and devices, and while form should always follow function, that doesn't mean that the form is an afterthought.
Except that for most companies, it really was. Until the original iMac, no one had ever called a computer "beautiful." They were boxes filled with electronic components that connected to another box that displayed the results of whatever you were doing.
With Ive in charge of design, technology became beautiful. Design became a primary consideration in the development of new products, and the effect can be seen in the countless number of competitors that mirror the shape and design of Apple products.
2. Design makes technology accessible.
The original iPod design is a classic example of how design can make technology more accessible to users.
The click wheel seems pretty old-school at this point, but at the time it was a completely new way to navigate a list of songs, or menu items, and it made it simple to scroll through songs, select the one you want to listen to, or change the volume.
For many companies, design is an oversight, but with Apple, it became the way to make complex devices simple and accessible to users.
And it wasn't just the iPod. TouchID, FaceID, and slide-to-unlock are all examples of how a company can use design to make it easier to use a device, without anyone having to tell you what to do. It just worked.
3. Details matter.
One of the most satisfying part of Apple's design aesthetic is the attention it pays to even the smallest of details. For example, for a long time its computers had a small "sleep light" that dimmed and brightened in a rhythm that mimics breathing.
Or the flashlight control on the iPhone, which actually changes to show the switch on or off, depending on whether you've turn it on or off.
How about the "breathe" app on your Apple Watch, which expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale?
Or the way the AirPod cases snap your AirPods into place, and clicks shut with just a gentle flick of the lid?
Those details would have been easy to ignore, and most companies would have, but Apple, under Ive, always believed that details matter because they complete the overall experience the user has, which is what really matters.
4. Technology should feel good in your hand.
Apple's products are mostly a combination of aluminum and glass. The result is that when you pick up one of the company's products, it has a certain "feel" to it. Whether it's an iPhone, an iPad, or a MacBook Air, it feels like something not only well-made, but high-end.
Considering that Apple's devices tend to be more expensive than those of its competitors, that feel has the tangible affect of reassuring the consumer that it was worth it.
Apple believes that how a product feels in your hand is just as important as what it does, and that's changed the way an entire industry designs and builds products today.
Sure, not everyone uses metal uni-body cases for their laptops, but companies have taken note that if you build something out of plastic, no one is going to pick it up just to see how it feels.