Jul 02, 2023
iPod Designer Jony Ive's First Post
The man who designed the iPod is back with his first hardware design since leaving Apple—and yes—it’s music related, though it’s a bit more analog than you might expect. Jony Ive forever changed the
The man who designed the iPod is back with his first hardware design since leaving Apple—and yes—it’s music related, though it’s a bit more analog than you might expect.
Jony Ive forever changed the way we interact with the world during his tenure at Apple, playing a role in the design of iconic digital devices like the iPod, iMac, iPhone, iPad and Macbook Air during his decades working alongside Steve Jobs and Tim Cook.
He left Apple in 2019 to form his own design firm, LoveForm, and now LoveForm has teamed up with British audio company Linn to debut the Sondek LP12-50, a vinyl record player set to retail for an eye-popping $60,000 with a limited 250-unit production run. The product is significant as it represents Ive’s first foray back into consumer products after departing Apple, and though a minimalist turntable might seem a stretch after his industry-defining work at Apple, Ive said it feels more like the culmination of that legacy just in a new form.
“I think the first consequential music player that I designed was the first iPod, and that began a journey of multiple generations of iPod, and multiple Airpods and music accessories,” Ive told Fast Company. “I feel really fortunate to have gone the full circle.”
The LP12-50 is designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sondek LP12, an innovative early turntable design that Linn launched in 1973 that was notable and beloved among users for its modular approach that made it easy to mix and match components, upgrading and replacing pieces over the years. Ironically enough, the collaboration came about due to Ive himself looking for a new record player for his personal use, with Ive’s assistant reaching out to Linn’s CEO via LinkedIn to chat. Ive had toured the Linn plant back when he was in his 20s, and the experience always stuck with him and made him a lifelong fan of the brand.
“I deleted [the message], thinking it was another spam message. A few hours later, I had this nagging feeling—‘Maybe it was Jony Ive’—so I got it out of the trash,” Linn CEO Gilad Tiefenbrun said. Once they connected, Tiefenbrun mentioned they were wanting to do something innovative for the LP12’s anniversary, and it made for an easy connection to have Ive take on a role with the project.
Ive and his LoveForm team worked with Linn’s designers for the better part of a year to figure out exactly what an anniversary edition of the LP12 would be, incorporating newer techniques like a wooden plinth consisting of timber fused together under high pressure, which Tiefenbrun sees as a cutting-edge change for the anniversary edition.
“The turntable’s plinth provides the foundations for its inner mechanics, ideally creating an acoustically silent platform on which the inner and outer platter, bearing assembly and sub-chassis can function,” Tiefenbrun wrote in a blog about the collaboration. “What has now become known as the new ‘Bedrok’ plinth is machined from a single block of an incredibly dense new type of wood, which is created by compressing layers of beech under extreme pressure. We are delighted with how it performs.”
Ive also recommended smoother, curved components to give the turntable’s silhouette more of a rounded look. The LP12-50 replaces the traditional plastic power switch with a charcoal aluminum control, and features a hinge specially manufactured at Linn so the turntable’s dust cover can “float” at any angle without having to be fully open.
But despite the tweaks, Ive was careful not to change the iconic design too much, to the point that users familiar with Linn’s work will still recognize the 50 as an LP12 at a glance.
“The ‘boundaries’ you work within that are defined by the audio performance of the product are, of course, and quite rightly nonnegotiable. It would be sacrilegious to disrespect those boundaries—and I think it would be such a pity to,” Ive told Fast Company. “What really characterized our approach, and what I think defined our contribution, was just a sense of deference for what is without doubt an icon in this product category. But that being said, we saw a number of areas where there could be small improvements and gentle evolutions of the current design.”
Despite the time and energy spent on the design, Ive’s design firm reportedly has no formal contract or financial agreement with Linn for the design work. Instead, Ive simply found it interesting and wanted to work on it—a degree of flexibility he says he is truly enjoying since parting ways with Apple.
“There are many things that I’ve always wanted to be able to do purely for the love of doing them,” Ive noted. “And there’s a substantial percentage of our work which we do purely for the love of doing it.”
So what else is Jony Ive working on? It’s a good question, but at the moment, he’s keeping his other products under the same type of secrecy he likely honed back in his Apple days. Some of LoveForm’s early work has focused on things largely outside the consumer product sphere, ranging from a red clown nose for the charity Comic Relief to a typeface font (though it’s worth noting, it is a very nice font). Ive and LoveForm have also been working with Ferrari on a mysterious electric car project, though there have been few updates on that initiative since it was announced in 2021.
If you happen to have $60,000 just laying around, you can reserve as Sondek LP12-50 right here.
Trent Moore is a recovering print journalist, and freelance editor and writer with bylines at lots of places. He likes to find the sweet spot where pop culture crosses over with everything else. Follow him at @trentlmoore on Twitter.
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