The Royal College of Art (RCA) has appointed Apple’s chief design officer Sir Jony Ive as its new chancellor, who will take over from Sir James Dyson.
Ive, who is behind the design of products including the iPhone, MacBook and Apple Watch, starts the new role at the London postgraduate university this summer.
His role at the RCA, which he will not receive a salary for, will involve being head of the college, leading meetings at the university’s governing body, and conferring degrees.
He will hold the chancellor position for five years, working to advise the college as it expands in size with a new building in London’s Battersea, due to open in 2020.
He will also help to guide the RCA as it looks to take on more digital and and computer-based courses.
A “STEAM-focused postgraduate university”
The college says it is looking to become a “STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) postgraduate university”, as it expands research into computer and materials science, the digital economy, manufacturing and the use of technology and data in everyday life and transport.
Paul Thompson, rector at the Royal College of Art, says: “Jony embodies the RCA’s ideals of technology and design excellence, inspiring students and staff, and enabling us to educate the next generation of world-leading artists and designers.”
Apple chief design officer for 21 years
Ive started at Apple at its headquarters in Silicon Valley, California as a senior designer in 1992, and has headed up the design team as chief design officer since 1996. He will continue to be based in California, but will travel to London to carry out his chancellor duties.
He holds over 5,000 patents for designs he and his team have created, and in 2003 received the Design Museum’s first Designer of the Year Award, along with the Design and Art Direction (D&AD) President’s Award in 2005. He was knighted in 2012 for services to design.
He also holds honorary doctorates from the RCA, Oxford University and Cambridge University.
Prior to working at Apple, he co-founded London-based product and brand design consultancy Tangerine, after studying industrial design at Newcastle Polytechnic University.
“Happy to make my connection with the RCA more formal”
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Show this morning, Ive said: “For many years, I’ve felt particularly close to the college and its approaches so I’m very happy to be able to make that connection a little more formal.”
On design education, and the part design plays in everyday life, he added: “The UK has a fabulous tradition of design education, but we can always be doing [it] better, given the way design has to meet new challenges and is in a constant fluid state of change. There are always ways design education can become more relevant.
“The recognition that everything in our manufactured environment is the product of design, is an absolute basis,” he added. “If we care about our cars, houses, chairs and phones, it naturally follows that we profoundly care about design. Design can be useful commercially for driving areas of focus for technology.”
He added, in light of potential immigration curbs as a result of Brexit, that it is important to have a “diverse pool of talent to hire from”.
Ive takes up the new role at the RCA in July 2017.