Rob Walker | Essays

Jony Ive: The Supercut

Jony Ive Supercut, screen grab.

There are many ways to measure the cultural profile of a designer. Here’s one: Jony Ive, of Apple, is now the star of a supercut video.

A supercut, if you don’t know the term, is “a fast-paced montage of short video clips that obsessively isolates a single element from its source, usually a word, phrase, or cliche from film and TV,” as the delightful Supercut.org helpfully puts it. Every Woody Allen stammer, every utterance of “dude” in The Big Lebowski, etc.

The Ive supercut is built from his appearances in Apple promotional videos, stretching back to 2000. You are, of course, familiar with these: Year after year, he says suspiciously similar things about a wide array of new technological products, always wearing a V-neck T varying only in its shade of gray, and frequently from an otherworldly pure-white non-room.

“Smaller,” he says. “Intuitive,” he says. “Simple.” “Powerful.” 

This supercut — which is perhaps not as dazzling as the famous “Enhance” example of the form, but solid and amusing in my opinion — departs somewhat from the classic formula that merely repeats a single phrase. Instead it builds a kind of faux pitch for … well, every Apple thing ever, and all of those to come. To quote Ive himself (from this supercut), it's "instantly familiar."

I have some bias here: I’m excited to see this video come into existence because I openly wished for such a thing just recently. In fact, I might deserve some blame (credit?) for this video’s existence.

Here’s what happened. In the process of writing a recent column about how Apple’s product-release videos have slowly made Ive into “the world’s most important infomercial star,” I watched a lot of Ive clips. I couldn’t help but notice that over the years he has gradually taken over these promos entirely.

“Why,” I wondered aloud, “can’t I find a Jony Ive supercut?”

After all, given Ive’s recurring themes, not to mention the remarkable consistency of his verbal delivery and facial expressions, year after year, he seems like a perfect supercut subject. But my search for such a video yielded nothing more than someone else thinking the same thing.

I assumed somebody out there would point me in the right direction. That didn’t happen.

But something far better did.

@Army_of_Id, which does impressive film work for brands, heard my cry — and took on the challenge as a fun lark. The results, above, certainly made me chuckle. And really, is there another designer today who could inspire, and withstand, the unique critique that only Web culture can provide?

It may be a bit rough, but really, the clip is quite fun, as you’d expect something done in this spirit to be. I’d like to imagine Ive describing it like so: “Simple, intuitive … yet remarkably powerful.”

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Business

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