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Private iCreator is genius behind Apple's polish

Steve Jobs is the face of Apple, but the man most responsible for the iconic look and feel of such sleek devices as the iBook, iPod and now, the iPhone, is an intensely private London native named Jonathan Ive. So important is Ive to Apple that at the Macworld Expo unveiling of the iPhone, the first call Jobs placed was to Ive to offer congratulations. Ive, 39, is senior vice president of industrial design at the Cupertino, Calif., company. He lives in a modest two-bedroom home in the San Francisco suburb of Twin Peaks with his wife, Heather, a historian, and their young twins. He dresses casually, eschews the limelight and delights in wowing engineers by dismantling machines during rare speeches. The Aston Martin he drives is a rare concession to luxury. But what may seem surprising about the man behind Apple’s look is that he once considered himself a computer dunce. “I went through college having a real problem with computers,” Ive told London’s Design Museum in 2003. “I was convinced that I was technically inept. … Right at the end of my time at college, I discovered the Mac. I remember being astounded at just how much better it was than anything else I had tried to use.” As a student, Ive’s talents became immediately clear at Newcastle Polytechnic, where he studied industrial design. After graduating, Ive went to work at Tangerine, a London-based design consulting firm. There, his talents shone in designs for such diverse items as televisions and bathroom sinks. In 1992, Ive moved to San Francisco to take a job with Apple. The company was struggling, but Ive already was on the rise when founder Steve Jobs returned as chief executive. Ive drew praise for the iMac, the one-piece computer and screen inspired by the colors and shape of a gumdrop. But it was the 2001 iPod MP3 player that made Ive a superstar. The product has sold more than 70 million units, and solidified Apple’s reputation for simple functionality. While the iPod would be the achievement of a lifetime for any other designer, some believe Ive may have topped it with the iPhone, which is due to go on sale in June.

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