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iPhone man Jonathan Ive returns to Staffordshire roots
By Joel Moors
BBC Stoke

Jonathan Ive
Jonathan Ive is one of the world's top industrial designers

Apple's chief designer has toured the JCB factory in Staffordshire - just miles from where he was raised.

Jonathan Ive is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc and deputy to their CEO Steve Jobs.

His designs include the iMac, iPod, iPad and iPhone, including Apple's latest handset, the iPhone 4.

BBC reporter Joel Moors was at JCB's Uttoxeter HQ to meet him...

Apple man

You may not recognise his name or picture, but Jonathan Ive is a big deal. His products have confirmed him as one of the most influential designers in the world.

But also by design, Mr Ive prefers to stay out of the spotlight, leaving centre stage to Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, the man he's tipped to eventually replace.

Stafford to San Francisco

'Jony' (as the boss calls him) has a reputation for being private.

He grew up - in part - in Stafford, attending Walton High School before studying industrial design at Newcastle Polytechnic.

After a short time working in London he moved to San Francisco in 1992 to join Apple.

It's not clear if he still has roots in Staffordshire, but during a trip to Britain he visited the design team at JCB's worldwide headquarters in Uttoxeter, a few miles from where he used to live.

Meeting the press?

At this point, had things gone to plan, I'd tell you about Jonathan Ive's memories of Staffordshire. I'd have asked about Apple's future and where his inspiration comes from.

But things didn't go to plan, since a formal interview was never guaranteed.

After a factory tour and briefing, Jonathan was brought into JCB's large marble reception area to meet the local press. All four of us.

Photographs were fine, it seemed. Interviews were not. "Apple's really strict about it." Ah. Right.


So we headed outside to take pictures - but before reaching the door, Jonathan Ive spotted the old-school rangefinder camera I was carrying.

Jonathan Ive
Ive is widely tipped to become Apple's next CEO

"Which model is that?" So I told him.

"Ah, I've got the same one in chrome. The new one's not as good because it's not painted, so it won't age the same way."

I should point out that I don't take pictures for a living, although I could talk about cameras all day.

Jonathan Ive posed, politely and confidently, behind a yellow digger while the other (proper) photographer got to work and I pondered my camera settings.


Minutes later we headed back inside.

"Jonathan, I heard you say you're not able to do an interview?"

"Yeah, Apple's really strict about it. I'm sorry."

We talked briefly about his time in Stafford. Would he record something about that?

"I think it's already out there. Sorry."

Next we moved to a reception office for some indoor pictures.

The proper photographer got to work and I asked Jonathan about his lenses. More camera talk ensued.

iPhone 4

Finally, accepting that a sit-down interview wouldn't happen, I asked if I could have a photo with him.

The proper photographer offered to use my camera, but after a brief effort, I suggested he use my iPhone instead.

"Oh, you've got the new one," said the man who designed it, "how are you finding it?"

"I like it. The battery life is good. The screen's great. But I am having a bit of an issue with the signal."

He asked for more. I carried on, "If I hold it in my left hand, the signal drops."

"But you've not had a dropped call?" "No, I haven't."

"I could talk about this all day," he told me, "but I can't".

And with a polite handshake he headed off, to take a helicopter to London and a connecting flight to San Francisco.

Not the radio interview I'd hoped for. Instead, a fleeting impression of Jonathan Ive; polite, modest and unassuming.

I could have talked to him all day. Just not about Apple.

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