tech giants and the possibility of craft

There’s an interesting discussion of craft in the book about Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive I’m currently reading. It describes his early consultancy career and his deep discomfort with the self-marketing necessary to thrive in this environment, as well as the design compromises that are often required when the whims of a client are paramount. It’s not exactly a deep-thinking book, definitely on the frothier end of the massive pile of business books I’m working my way through at the moment, but it makes an extremely plausible case about Apple actually being an extremely liberating environment for someone like Ive because it freed him from the constraints of consulting. For a select few, working for a tech giant can be liberating – doing things well for their own sake becomes possible – much more so than self-employment and/or mutual ownership of a practice. From page 60 of Jony Ive:

Another factor was undoubtedly that Jony was frustrated with consulting. He had achieved what many designers dream of: a successful practice with a lot of freedom. But consulting also restricted his ability to truly make an effect. ‘Working outside a company made it difficult to have a profound impact on product plans and to truly innovate,’ he said. 53 In most cases, by the time his commissions had been accepted, many of the critical decisions had already been made internally. Jony had come to believe that to do something fundamentally new required dramatic change from within an organization. ‘While I had never thought that I could work successfully as part of a corporation – I always assumed that I would work independently – at the end of this big programme of work for Apple, I decided to accept a full- time position there and to move to California.’