Saturday, November 14, 2015

Leander Kahney (2013): Jony Ive - The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products

What is it about?

The book is a biography of Jony Ive, who eventually became the head designer at Apple. While the book traces the life of Ive, especially (and towards the end, quite exclusively) his professional life, the latter part of the book discusses the industrial and product design at Apple more generally. For this reason, it is a fascinating description of what kinds of choices and innovations go into seemingly simple and elegant products.

Was it good?

Yes, it was good. To be honest, I slightly disliked the overly praising tone of the first half in the style of "...already at this early age, he showed unmistakable signs of the eventual superlative success..." (not an actual quote), though the life events being described in British design education are highly interesting. However, the latter part pertaining to Ive's career at Apple and associated product design and development was, for a contemporary reader, illuminating 'behind the scenes' reading.

The main take-away for me?

As with so many books, the main take-away perhaps is the amount of work - blood, sweat and tears - that take place before a seemingly simple and elegant (outwardly, that is) product hits the shelves. Indeed, the new product announcement events convey a false impression of ease and inevitability when compared to, e.g., several hundreds of early casing mock-ups and alternative ways to manufacture a hinge. However, what perhaps struck me most is that Apple's success is equally attributable to highly tuned manufacturing apparatus and operations management (e.g. at one time purchasing a substantial portion of world's total supply of certain CNC milling machines) as it is to product design - and that these are intimately connected to each other.

Who should read the book?

I think that there are two or three primary audiences that would enjoy the book. First, any Apple product user (or better yet, aficionado) would probably appreciate the products even more after learning all the painstaking effort that go into making them - including the care over the aesthetics of the internals concealed by the casing. Second, industrial design students probably appreciate reading about the career, especially the early career, of a highly successful designer. And third, without a doubt, business executives (and teachers) can derive quite valuable lessons from the book - how uncompromising commitment to excellence, elegance and consistency can create brand identity, customer loyalty and strategic direction.

The book on Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products

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