Jonathan Ive, Design Genius or Something Else?

By Brian Ling January 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?

. . .

Brian Ling

Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.

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16 Comments on "Jonathan Ive, Design Genius or Something Else?"

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David Boyle

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.


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.




[…] 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 […]


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

L. della-Porta
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.… Read more »

[…] 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 […]


[…] 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 […]


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