The first time Apple designer Jony Ive met Steve Jobs, he was carrying his resignation letter in his pocket.
In a profile in the New Yorker today, Ive recalls the scene at Apple in 1997, when Jobs rejoined the company he cofounded. Everybody was sure Apple was about to go out of business. Wired had just published an infamous cover featuring Apple’s logo with a crown of barbed wire thorns and the single word “PRAY.”
So Ive was pretty sure he was going to be fired.
And in fact, Jobs had talked to Richard Sapper, who had designed IBM’s ThinkPad, but Sapper didn’t want to leave IBM for such a small struggling company.
But Jobs and Ive hit it off immediately. They were both a little bit “odd,” Ive explains, and neither of them were used to such an immediate connection.
Ive proceeded to show Jobs some of the design work that had been happening in Apple’s studio, and Jobs, in typically harsh fashion, said “Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?”
But it wasn’t an insult! Instead, Jobs was saying that the designs Ive had on display looked fresh and exciting, but Ive hadn’t been able to get the rest of the company to pay much attention to his work.
They began collaborating on the iMac that very day, Ive says. The iMac was the first in a long line of hit products that paved Apple’s road to recovery, and eventually turned Apple into the most profitable company in the world.
Meanwhile, the two men became close friends and collaborators. Jobs died in 2011, and at his memorial service Ive called him his “closest and most loyal friend.”