Jony Ive’s Fragmented Legacy

Jony Ive, Apple’s outgoing chief design officer, took inspiration from Dieter Rams. But Ive has never publicly discussed the dissonance between Rams inspiration and Apple’s disposable, glued-together products.

Dieter Rams loves durable products that are environmentally friendly. That’s one of his 10 principles for good design: “Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment.” But for years, Apple has openly combated green standards that would make products easier to repair and recycle, stating that they need “complete design flexibility” no matter the impact on the environment.

Gary Hustwit, the documentarian behind the design-focused films Objectified and Rams, understands Dieter Rams’ conflicted views on Apple’s products better than many alive. “He doesn’t feel like he’s responsible [for consumerism], but I think he definitely feels like he had a role in getting to where we are now.

“I think he looks at our modern world of throwaway products and hyper-consumerism in horror, really,” Hustwit told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “They were trying to make honest products that would last a lifetime.”

It’s a shame that Ive is leaving Apple without reconciling this. His iPod started the practice of gluing in batteries, a technique that initially brought scorn but has since become the industry norm. AirPods channel much of Rams’ design aesthetic, except they have a built-in death clock and stop working after a couple years. The last seven years of Apple laptop designs have pushed the envelope of thinness, sacrificing upgradeability, serviceability, external ports, and usable keyboards along the way.

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