Jonathan Ive New Yorker interview

I’m only about half-way through, but I assume everyone is reading this…right?

First, I’m confused if Ive is a cool guy and great designer or a complete d-bag blow hard. I guess it’s a credit to the writer that the article is doesn’t paint Ive as white or black.

Second, everyone works 12-hour days? Maybe I’m soft from living in Canada, but I feel sorry for his kids. If I worked 12 hours, I would only see my son on the weekends. I couldn’t deal with that.

What does everyone else think?

Read it yesterday- surprisingly devoid of content considering its length. I remember reading an article many years ago about Patrick Head (technical director for Williams F1) when he was first interviewing for the job, and Frank Williams asked him if he was willing to work nights and weekends. His answer was no, anyplace that required that must be terribly unorganized. Always stuck with me.

An expectation that people will regularly work 12 hour days under normal conditions is sociopathic, and counterproductive.

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Legacy of Jobs’ influence on Apple culture, perhaps? He was notorious for both his own neurotic tendencies and how those habits would affect the lives of his subordinates.

I appreciate your sentiment, Scott. There’s an unhealthy attitude in work culture (at least American culture) that the “minimum” is the 40 hour work week, and that you should always be trying to pull more work hours out of someone.

In an ideal society, we would have reduced work hours to the minimum/what the person wants to do. I mean, after all, isn’t that the point of all this? But I digress. Still reading the article.

I agree about the length.

I never knew Patrick Head said that. I’ve said since my 2nd year as a professional! Most people try to argue me, but no one has evidence that the sentiment is wrong. As someone who has been hiring, I feel sad that that is in their criteria. I feel that they must just get great insomniac designers rather than just great designers.

I remember when I was right out of college at my first job we were pulling an all nighter to get something done for a deadline. It was myself, another designer my age, and our creative director working. We finished at 6am and walked outside to see the sunrise. The other designer and I high five or something silly and exclaimed: “We did it!”

To that our creative director said: you guys don’t get it do you? We are not here because we are heroes, we are here because we failed. If we were did it right I’d be home in bed with my wife, instead I had to work all night with you two jokers. If you want to be a hero, get your work done on time.

That changed my perspective forever. I’ve tried to implement that wherever I’ve worked. I haven’t always succeed, but at least late nights are the rare exception, not the norm. I want my team to go outside, live life, experience things, and bring that back into the studio.

I’ve never understood why some people are so proud of working late nights, weekends and getting up at 6am. I’m happy I can make a great living working sometimes 25 hours a week and waking up at 10am everyday. I sometimes catch myself feeling guilty, but then remind myself it’s better to work smart and hard than long and stupid. If you are super successful, you don’t work at all and you make money in your sleep :slight_smile:


There are many reasons why designers might work late.

Some are indeed badly organized or not good with time management.
Often it’s not the designers fault though. They are being slammed by bad project management with leadership over-commiting in fear of losing the client or they are being asked to do work that isn’t really their area of expertise, resulting in nights learning a new skill in order to satisfy a pushy client.
Been there, done that. Didn’t like it one bit.

I am a total night person though and thrive under pressure. So I actually enjoy quite frequently to work later. The studio empties out, no distractions, full focus. Or I pick up the sketchpad or laptop after dinner at home.
This means that might come in a little later in the morning or take a long lunch. I am still working efficiently, just not in the 9-5 framework.

Of course, I also don’t have kids and am currently in a long-distance relationship. So one might suggest, I don’t really have much better to do unless there is a soccer-game on or my buddies are having a drink :wink:

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It is, as always, relative.
I doubt anyone stays at Apple because they need a job and a sense of security.
I have not worked in Cupertino myself so I can only go off of what I have heard but to me it seems like a very exciting opportunity to influence millions of people and to work at the highest level of mass-produced CE.

Of course there is sacrifice in making products of this fidelity but the trick is that the work feels so profound that you gladly do it again tomorrow.
If it does feel like a drag, it’s not the right fit.

Personally, I’d much rather spend 12 hours doing something I felt was meaningful, important and interesting than 7 hours dealing with stubborn clients on projects that won’t go anywhere anyway.

The author was pretty heavy on the descriptions.

I get sad when I read the lengths and extremes to which we go for fame and fortune and how the current system rewards and enshrines those that got there, thus making it more likely we repeat the cycle and end up with a world of extremes, everybody working super hard for either pennies or tons of money, with no regard for oneself and others feelings or well being.It is insidious.

There is literally no other way for it to be. If we celebrated those who did not achieve fortune, how else could we make a particular lifestyle so attractive?

I am writing this on my MacBook Air which I love, designed by a pampered but hardworking demigod and his unknowing slaves and knowing very well that a lot of suffering and tooling went into making it, I am also trying to get a job and there’s this part of me that is willing to work 12 hour days doing anything and being submissive in exchange for some sort of security, there seems to be plenty of takers and a lot of competition.

Stuff like this reminds me that we are still living in the dark ages, we can surely do better…


We surely can! :slight_smile:


So, the gist of the thread so far, working long hours is unacceptable for everyone except the number one designer/design team on the planet. I understand more now why they are number one.

I get the negatives and I get the positives of longer hours. The Apple employees realize what they are signing up for and are no doubt paid for the twelve hours, let’s rule out the cultish aspects for this conversation. Getting paid for eight and working twelve, not fair, Japanese system of sitting at your desk until the boss leaves, not fair.

I have worked more than eight hours a day for most of my life, for one main reason, I cannot get the ideas and designs out of my system, and learn everything I want to learn, and explore all of the opportunities that present themselves in forty hours a week. Chalk that one up to my personal inefficiencies if you will.

(Edit: Working more than eight hours a day will not make you number one. There is no doubt a point on the hours curve that two equal designers will have more success for more hours worked. And there is no doubt a falloff point where the inverse result takes place. I am betting the inversion happens after twelve hours as opposed to after eight.)

Man, I didn’t mean to bum everyone out!

I’m a little more with you Shaw. Before my son was born, I would stay late a few times a month when I was feeling hot on a project. However, it’s a bit like, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The moment that you jack decides 9-10am is time for play it becomes a chore and it’s no longer really play. The moment I’m required to work 12 hours a day, I’m sure I would be staring at the clock.

I started thinking this morning that maybe the article was written the way it was because Ive is just a boring person. As Brad Pitt showed a few years ago on Real Time, someone can seem very interesting up until there is no script.

There is a world of difference between doing something for long hours because it’s yours and you love it and want to do it, and requiring employees to do the same. I probably put in 60 hours most weeks, but I would never operate with the expectation that anyone else wants to spend all their free time building my business.

The Apple design lab is probably a pretty fun place to spend time, and if you don’t have a family waiting for you at home, it beats the alternative of sitting at home watching Breaking Bad. Is the same true of most jobs?

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Maybe. But that doesn’t make it right. imo, Mother Teresa’s lifestyle should celebrated and made attractive instead of a workaholic who brings more crap into the world.

Getting off of my high horse, the article should be cut in half, then half again (channeling my River Runs Through It as long as we are discussing Brad Pitt). Also, if someone wants to live any particular lifestyle, god bless them, as long as they are not stepping on their neighbor. I just think the celebration part should focus on what you do for others (Jony does provide a lot of jobs, no pun intended), not for prizes you accumulate. The author of the article seems to think otherwise.

I have a lab. Granted, the products we produce are not a sexy as Apple, but they do have impact for people that use them, no doubt.

But working or not working long hours is really dependent on the individual, similar to being a morning or a night person. Personally, I am a morning person who would take a pay cut to work less hours.

I liked the part about Apple canning most projects. I’ve never worked with or at a company that canned projects unless there was sustained lack of interest from clients. That’s probably the most valuable lesson of all the inside Apple articles and probably the one that most business people speed read right over.

I don’t care about fortune, so I don’t really have an opinion about chasing it. I think the fame of Ive is the most deserved in the design world. A quiet person that labors over details so that people can enjoy great products. That’s always been my goal and what I wish design would strive for.

It took me about 3 days to finish this article…

I didn’t see a celebration for working late hours or chasing fame and fortune. The end is quite sad, and sums up a lot about what I’ve been contemplating lately as far as a work/life balance in the future. What I see is a guy that has had to sacrifice a hell-of-a lot in order to produce his view of incredible products and experiences. I see similarities to someone like Elon Musk, who made the decision to pursue space exploration and mass market electric cars because it’s what he thinks is best for the world. Obviously there’s a difference between space and Apple products but I think the sentiment and sacrifice of a personal life is similar.

Agreed. People always get bummed when projects get canned… and they should. They need to be personally invested… but it is always my goal to have an innovation surplus. It should be a funnel with a lot of great ideas going in and only the best of the best coming out. A tree doesn’t make just as many leaves as it needs, it makes many times more than that.

I never like to use the S word. A sacrifice is something you give with nothing in return. I’d call this a trade off. I’d happily trade some time goofing off for the advancement of a personal goal. That equation is unique to each person. I will say that most of what we often consider the best designers live the cliche of eat, drink, sh!t design… and if you love it so much that it is actually who you are, it is definitely not a sacrifice, maybe not even a trade off. It is just life.

The flip side to always watch out for is burning out. I get concerned when I see my team burning the candle from both ends. I’m happy though when I see them going to design events, making things in their spare time, and living the design life in general. I was fortunate to have bosses who recognized and rewarded my passion without exploiting it. I try to model that behavior. I’ve had friends that worked for companies where working Saturdays in the office was not an exception, it was the norm. “Your not coming in on Saturday?”

Work to live. Not live to work. That plus “love what you do for work” and it’s like you are never working. Simple. You can’t ejoy your life if you work so hard you have no time to enjoy the money and benefits it gets you, and you spend far too much time in life working to waste spending the time doing something you don’t find gratifying.

The solution to the equation however, is ultimately different for everyone.