The blogosphere is abuzz with news that Sir Jonathan Ive designed a red clown nose for Comic Relief. However, everyone seems to be missing that this is an inside joke by Ive; we've covered him long enough to understand why he chose to design this object in particular.
Before Ive joined Apple, he was an ordinary industrial designer anonymously toiling away in London, having to deal with crappy bosses like the rest of us. In 1990, with his Industrial Design degree barely a year old, Ive had joined an ID consultancy called Tangerine. "There, he designed everything from microwave ovens to toothbrushes," goes the story (which you can find in numerous older interviews like this one). "But he quickly became disillusioned working for clients he didn't like or whose values he didn't share."
"The final straw came one rainy day when he drove to Hull to present his design for a new hand basin and toilet for Ideal Standard. It was the BBC's Comic Relief Day and the boss lampooned his work as too modern and too expensive to build — while wearing a giant plastic red nose."
It had to be galling for Ive to have this thoughtful designs ridiculed by a guy in a clown nose. Ive quit, and by 1992 he was living in California and working for Apple.
So it's fitting that Ive, who has for years been able to call his own shots, has finally chosen to redesign an underdesigned object that has probably plagued him in memories. At least if his old boss had been wearing a clown nose with a more deliberate and considered design, Ive might have had something positive to focus on in that meeting. (Then again, if his boss hadn't been wearing it at all, Ive might not have quit that day.)