Prince Charles and Jony Ive on Designing a Better World


Sir Jony Ive signs the website of his creative collective, LoveFrom, with two startling and contradictory words: ‘Love’ and ‘Fury’, linking them to a meticulously drawn ampersand. They suggest a more complicated and surprising designer than the purist who gave the enigmatic first-generation iPhone its Dieter Rams-inspired calculator interface.

Ive is unfailingly polite, attentive, and considerate in conversation, yet occasionally he uses the word ‘fury’, ‘furious’ or ‘angry’. This makes him look a bit like William Morris, who abandoned design to campaign for socialism, complaining in the ears of his clients that he spent his life “dealing with the ignoble luxuries of the rich”. Ive certainly isn’t giving up on design, but he suggests that when discussing work in his studio, he sometimes argues with himself: “It’s mostly an internal monologue.” He belongs to a generation of designers who grew up reading the books of Victor Papanek Design for the real worldwho famously claimed that “there are more dangerous professions than industrial design, but not many”.

His career to date has been inextricably associated with the giant corporation that has done more than most to define modern industrial production, and perhaps even modern life. Although he left the position of design director in 2019, he still has Apple as a client, as well as Ferrari and Airbnb.

Terra Carta: a new charter for the planet

The Terra Carta Seal by LoveFrom

Alongside his work for industry giants, I recently designed a seal for the Prince of Wales Terra Carta campaign, with the words ‘For Nature, People and Planet’ around the edge rendered in the specially designed serif font , derived from the work of the 18th century printer John Baskerville, which Ive reserved for his personal projects. The seal has an elegance and emotional punch that somehow alludes to the sensibilities of William Blake and Damien Hirst.

Terra Carta, named in a conscious echo of the 13th century Magna Carta, is a document designed to guide businesses to avoid climate catastrophe. The Magna Carta, which promised trial by jury and the abolition of cruel and unusual punishments, was written with considerable elegance by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The new Terra Carta, which aims to show that capitalism and enlightened self-interest are compatible with saving the planet, may have a Latin name, but its vocabulary is unsurprisingly accentuated by the language of modern theory of management. With frequent references to “roadmaps”, “value chains” and “game changers”, Terra Carta aims to identify 13 areas of successful investment, including biomimicry, electric flight propulsion, neutral construction in carbon, nuclear fission and green infrastructure.

It’s an approach that has caught the attention of Greenwash.Earth, an activist group supporting Extinction Rebellion that denounces organizations that “claim to care about the natural world while knowingly destroying it.” They call Terra Carta “a great idea” and say “we don’t think Terra Carta is greenwashing”. But they expressed skepticism about some of the 450 organisations, including HSBC and BP, which have signed up to support the document.

As Chancellor of the Royal College of Art (RCA), Ive is not limited to dressing up once a year in a colorful medieval cod outfit to officiate at the graduation ceremony. He worked with the prince to start what he calls a design lab at the college, to support Terra Carta’s goals, and perhaps to prove Papanek wrong, even though he shares some of the latter’s concerns.

Terra Carta Design Lab: the four winners

Terra Carta Design Lab winner: The Zero Emissions Livestock Project (Zelp) designed a portable livestock device to neutralize methane emissions and improve animal welfare

The Prince and Ive were at the college at the end of April to announce which four projects, chosen from 125 submissions made by RCA students and recent alumni, would share £200,000 from Prince’s Sustainable Markets initiative and would benefit from time with Ive and other advisors to find ways to use that money to commercialize their ideas.

Successful entrants range from a group of designers working on methods to deal with the microplastic pollutant released from vehicle tires, which turns out to be almost as damaging as single-use plastic, to a muffler device that can convert cows’ methane emissions into relatively less threatening CO2, as well as a waterproof textile that doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the water table, and an idea of ​​low-tech airfoil-assisted reseeding projects for degraded natural environments. The four, plus two runners-up, were chosen for their ability to make a visible difference and how close they are to realizing. For example, the Zelp methane capture project set up by Francisco Norris, an RCA graduate since 2017, has already secured substantial investments and has 26 employees.

“The idea for the design lab grew out of a conversation between Jony and the Prince,” said RCA Vice-Chancellor Paul Thompson. “It had a powerful impact on all of RCA, bringing everyone together.”

Winner of the Terra Carta Design Lab: the first fully recyclable outdoor performance textile, Amphitex by Amphibio will be made from recycled and plant-based raw materials

As Charles shook hands with the winners, he told his audience how proud he was to be associated with such remarkable ideas. He spoke of “the urgency of the crisis we are facing in all directions”, and the need to find solutions quickly, “through the combination of art, science and technology, which together are more likely to win this battle”.

Prince Charles and Jony Ive: A Meeting of Minds

I first met Charles over a decade ago when he and Steve Jobs visited Highgrove, the prince’s private residence in Gloucestershire. He admires the Prince’s mastery of the issues we face on climate change, and even more the way he approaches them. “It’s easy to say the threat is too deep and too existential to do anything but retreat.” With the certainty of knowledge that comes from a prolonged examination of issues, the prince outlined the problem, but his commitment did not come from fear.

Ive admits that he is an anxious person. As the Love and Fury reference on the LoveFrom website suggests, his strategy for dealing with this anxiety is to turn fear into fury. “Fear seems passive. I’m more angry than I’m scared,” he said. “It’s dangerous to feel helpless in the face of a challenge. The thing about fear is that it’s passive, corrosive and deeply unhealthy. It encourages you to retreat, because you don’t think you can perform any change.

Terra Carta Design Lab Winner: Bike Ayaskan and Begum Ayaskan’s Aerseeds are pods designed to be carried by the wind to provide nutrients and seeds to regenerate soils

When Ive talks about design, his language is fiercely moralizing. “I am angry that most of what is done seems so thoughtless. So many products don’t deserve to exist. The minimum they need to do to justify themselves and consume all that material is for their designers to care.

Ive is encouraged both by the young designers whose work forms the basis of the Terra Carta project, and by their ideas. He sees their work as “a wonderful antidote to dodging and retreating”. He is also impressed by their articulation. “I used to struggle to speak, and to hear each of them speak with passion and knowledge, with fire in their stomachs, but without arrogance, was hugely encouraging.”

Winner of the Terra Carta Design Lab: the Tire Collective device attaches to a wheel to capture invisible synthetic rubber particles expelled by tire wear, a major source of pollution

Ive been optimistic about what the designers have to offer. According to him, design is always on the move. ‘We have lost sight of how recent industrialization is. Unlike architecture, design is still a new profession. He grew by placing a design office above a manufacturing plant, then discovered fatherhood and is still trying to find meaning in the equation.

“I’m struck by the glaring absence of a fully identifiable movement,” Ive continues. “Maybe the last was Ettore Sottsass and Memphis. Maybe because it’s easier to identify a movement that comes down to appearance.

Terra Carta Design Lab Finalist: Shellworks uses bacteria to produce sustainable packaging for the beauty and personal care industry that is truly compostable, competitive, aesthetically pleasing and efficient

If Ive is successful, the future of design is to combine maker care with the potential of contemporary industrial manufacturing. “In the 1980s, when manufacturing started to be outsourced to North America, it wasn’t because of the labor rate, it was because of skills that couldn’t be found elsewhere. . The narrative is that it was cheaper. It wasn’t, it was to find abilities. When designing, you must have a deep understanding of materials, otherwise you get a fractured development of form. You often hear people apologizing that things aren’t going the way they wanted. I understand that excuse, but at Apple I spent months on manufacturing sites, and my apology would have been worthless.

‘The creators never say, “it wasn’t quite the way I wanted it to be”. If designed and manufactured with care, a mass-produced object can have the resonances of mass production. It depends on the motivation and the sacrifices you make for the exercise.

Terra Carta Design Lab Finalist: Gold: Bital Bloom is a data-driven work of art that “flourishes” in response to businesses and organizations’ adherence to sustainability and carbon reduction goals

For Ive, design is about care, something he’s discussed with Jobs before. It was a conversation where his other signature word came from. “He said to me, ‘When you make something with care, even if you don’t know who the people are going to use it, they will feel it. Care is a way of expressing our love for the species”. §

Newsstand cover of the August 2022 issue of The Wallpaper*, featuring Prince Charles and Jony Ive, photographed in the Morning Room of Clarence House in St James’s, London, by Nick Knight

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