Jonathan Ive, Design Genius or Something Else?

File under:
Industrial Design

Written by Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Jan 19, 2008


Image Source: Gizmodo

According to Gizmodo there is an uncanny resemblance between the great work of Dieter Rams to the work of Jonathan Ive head of Industrial Design at Apple.

When you look at the Braun products by Dieter Rams—many of them at New York’s MoMA—and compare them to Ive’s work at Apple, you can clearly see the similarities in their philosophies way beyond the sparse use of color, the selection of materials and how the products are shaped around the function with no artificial design, keeping the design “honest.”

Jonathan Ive’s dedication to “honesty” and “simplicity” in design pays great homages to Dieter Rams’ 10 Commandants in Design, and is something that Japanese design great, Naoto Fukasawa, indicated was his major design influence as well. Rams’ 10 Commandants was also recently printed in Wallpaper Magazine’s September 2007 issue, and was something that I wanted to write about but totally forgot! Here they are, in brief as extracted from Wallpaper Magazine:

Dieter Rams 10 Design Commandments
Good Design:
1. is innovative
2. makes a product useful
3. Is aesthetic
4. Helps a product be understood
5. Is unobtrusive
6. Is honest
7. Is durable
8. Is consistent to the last detail
9. Is concerned with environment
10. Is as little design as possible

Anyways check out the complete comparison at the Gizmodo site, some of which are so similar that saying it “was inspired by” is actually pushing it.

Braun T3 pocket radio and Apple iPod
Image Source: Gizmodo

What do you guys think?

Do you think Jonathan Ive is a design genius? Or was he suitably inspired? What about the similarities in design and detailing between Apple and Braun? Are Apple products a result of a close tribute to Dieter Ram’s design thinking? If so what about Naoto Fukasawa, who also follows closely to the teachings of Dieter Rams, but yet his work has a unique character of its own? Shall we discuss?

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Jan 22, 08 – 12:57 am

I also enjoy the philosophy / design from Jacob Jensen. Check this quote about perfecting the design…

Jan 22, 08 – 10:40 am

Hi Trush,

Thanks very much for the link. Great information, I myself am a fan of Jacob Jenson as well.

Jan 24, 08 – 3:27 pm

This article is pretty ironic because the author in Gizmodo himself “appropriated” ideas from other articles with no credit:

Jan 25, 08 – 7:21 am

Hey KN Sato,

That is terrible! I had assumed they were the ones that uncovered this story, I did not realised that they had “pinched” it from someone else.

Gizmondo has dropped a notched in my eyes.

Thanks for pointing this out, and please keep in touch.

Jan Moryson
Jan 29, 08 – 5:11 pm

there was not really something to “uncover” It’s more a collection of images that where discussed several times in many blogs and boards.

But you are right, a credit would have been nice.

Greetings from Germany,
Jan (

Feb 11, 08 – 7:16 am

If you look at some of Ive’s earlier designs (had a book out on apples early products the other day) they don’t seem to conform to the same design philosophies, They were much more flamboyant and less reserved in the detailing which leads one to think it was either an evolution or a blatant copy.. I would say the latter, from what I hear Johnny was always a complete product ‘nerd’ right from the very start of his studies so I think its no surprise that after all this time and all his sustained hard work he’s regarded a ‘design genius’. (lets not mention his big break at getting to Apple so early in his career!)

As for Fukasawa, perhaps he was influenced by Dieters 10 commandments but from reading his book I’d hazard a guess that his Japanese background – his Shinto learnings for example – are a much more apparent influence on his work.

I agree though, the iPod/Portable Radio Comparison is scary!

[…] in the world. In it he shares his unique design philosophy, which I sense is a reinterpretation of Dieter Ram’s thinking (someone who Naoto looks up to) and a strong dose Japanese Zen […]

[…] Braun T3 pocket radio designed in 1958 and Apple’s first Ipod and you’ll sense his influence. Jonathan Ives at Apple may be Ram’s most well known design disciple. Read on to find out how Dieter Rams 10 Design […]

Freddy Nietzsche » Puttanatae manent
May 24, 12 – 3:27 pm

[…] stati fatti “baronetti”. Oggi si dice lo stesso di Jonathan Ive, il progettista inglese che, ispirandosi al lavoro di Dieter Rams alla Braun, ha costruito l’estetica Apple degli ultimi anni. In realtà […]

L. della-Porta
Jul 11, 12 – 1:59 pm

Is the error with us? Is our desire to idolise J.I? Demanding he has unique, inspirational guru qualities, to be master of the universe where he is in control of the questions as well as the answers?
‘Genius’ is a hard label for him to live up to and nonsense. Einstein, Da Vinci could be called genius because they understood the world in ways which were not understood before, and created new understanding.
What J.I. has done is re-interpret, which he has done exceptionally well, and full credit to him and his team for achieving beautifully designed products and experiences.

J.I.’s exceptional quality is not in invention or thinking as a genius etc, but in his absolute determination to design a product with a pure balance of beauty and function, to not compromise.

He is not the first to do so, but in our generation should definitely be rewarded and thanked for standing out as a beacon of hope in a sea of bland compromise.

Jul 13, 12 – 3:44 pm

“Good artist copy, great artist steal.” Picasso
“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” – Einstein

[…] is known for borrowing design cues from Braun and Deiter Rams (let’s not even get into Xerox PARC). Kanye openly acknowledges his hip-hop sampling forefathers […]

Sep 03, 12 – 7:55 pm


Aug 16, 13 – 10:16 am

J.I. brought us back all the fond memories of beauty that we have forgotten long ago, in his design. I will be ok if JI did not invent anything in his design, anyway, someone please educate how do we ‘invent a design’ out of points, lines and surfaces.
and, thank him, and others, who made comparison and therefore Dieter’s greatness is relived.

David Boyle
Oct 19, 14 – 4:43 pm

He didn’t just copy he improved and also created a new way of using media.

I hate articles like this that look to trash good design.

All artists use other designers, artists and sources as influence. That is part of the process.

Picasso was influenced by African art when he looked at cubism. It has been the way of all art.

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