The New Yorker’s excellent, 17,000-word profile of Apple design chief, Jonathan Ive, does not mention the company’s supposed car project. (Apple, reported the Wall Street Journal (paywall) last week, has “several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle” that “resembles a minivan.”)
But the profile does talk a bit about cars—including Ive’s particular dislike for two utilitarian models from Toyota, the Japanese automotive giant. You can guess where Apple isn’t looking for inspiration.
“We were in Ive’s black Bentley,” the New Yorker’s Ian Parker writes, and the two were discussing fellow industrial designer Marc Newson, whom Apple officially hired last year.
He and Newson are car guys, and they feel disappointed with most modern cars; each summer, they attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where vintage sports cars are exhibited and raced in the South of England. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive said. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.” To his right was a silver sedan with a jutting lower lip. Ive said, quietly, “For example.” As the disgraced car fell behind, I asked Ive to critique its design: “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” He declined to name the model, muttering, “I don’t know, I don’t want to offend.” (Toyota Echo.)
Funny. Parker continues, quoting Ive:
“I’ve always loved the big old-school square Bentleys,” he said. “The reasons are entirely design-based. But because of the other connotations I resisted and resisted, and then I thought, This is the most bizarre vanity, because I’m concerned that people will perceive me to be this way—I’m not. So I’m going to—” A pause. “And so I am uncomfortable about it.” Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice-president of operations, drives an old Toyota Camry. Ive’s verdict, according to Williams, is “Oh, God.”
Parker makes great use of his access to Ive and other Apple executives, focusing mostly on Ive’s life story, his design lab and its role within Apple’s organization, and his latest (public) project, the Apple Watch, which will ship in April. The article is well worth the time.