The question seems to be: Who will eat the world first? Amazon, Google and Apple seem to be way past the obese man at the all-you-can-eat buffet metaphor. Jokes aside, not only are they buying up the best and brightest small companies they can find but they are also buying up the most original talent like so many free agent athletes also. Is this bad or good? What do you think?
Apple is certainly on a shopping binge. Talk about burning a hole in your pocket! Here are just a few examples.
The hippest of hip designers, Mark Newson, is now part of Apple’s Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive’s new elite team. Ive, the designer of many of Apple’s products, including the MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, Apple Watch and iOS 7, has made Newson his first hire ever! Newson will not be moving to head-office in Cupertino however, with so many commitments to business clientele in the U.K. and Europe. Long a designer of watches, Mr. Newson will surely come up with something far more original and easy on the eyes than the disappointing iWatches we’ve seen so far.
This seems to be a-okay with both Ive and Newson, who have been close friends since they met while working in Japan in the nineties. Newson, who has had his work archived by MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art in New York City), has also been commissioned by Ford, Nike, and Qantas Airways, among others. Ive and Newson began collaborating on Bono, the U2 vocalist’s RED auction/fundraiser for HIV and AIDS victims in Africa, raising a massive $26.2 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa, with Newson curating a collection of items, many of which he designed with Newson and made themselves including a one-of-a-kind Leica camera.
It’s a kind of gamble on Ive’s part. In the old days, under Steve Jobs’ leadership, established outsiders were simply unwanted. Yet Ive, who has been arguably the major player in the rise of digital technology, up there with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, runs his own laboratory at Apple where he oversees the work of his appointed design team. His core team – 15 people from Britain, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have worked together for over 20 years. According to Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs told him. “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.”(Isaacson, Walter (24 October 2011). Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster)
Ive feels there’s never been a bigger distance between designers and hands-on, tactile drawing board skills than there is now. “We are in an unusual time in which objects are designed graphically, on a computer,” Ive said. “Now we have people graduating from college who don’t know how to make something themselves. It’s only then that you understand the characteristics of a material and how you honor that in the shaping. Until you’ve actually pushed metal around and done it yourself, you don’t understand.”
Newson’s hire follows the purchase of Beats Music, which was originally founded by hip-hop music industry pioneers Dr. Dré and Jimmy Iovine. Indeed, the notion of hiring tastemakers versus relying on data-driven algorithms seems to be practical common sense when added to the hiring of Angela Ahrendts away from the outerwear giant Burberry where she has been CEO; the sneaker designer, Ben Schaffer, away from Nike, where he designed the smash-hit sneaker, the Flyknit and the FuelBand, Yves Saint-Laurent’s CEO for over a decade, Paul Deneve.
If the connection between Beats and iTunes seems more obvious after a few months of folks getting used to it, the hiring of Ahrendts, Deneve and Shaffer shows that Apple are absolutely serious about wearables as well.