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But there was one Tangerine client Ive admired: Apple, for which he had started working as a consultant. Ive works in a design studio in a building on one corner of Apple’s campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, the firm’s address.

He came up with the early designs for a portable computer that became the Powerbook in 1991. It looks like all the other dull, un-Apple-like glass and beige — yes, beige — concrete blocks. The glass is opaque and no-one other than Ive, his core team and top Apple executives is allowed in.

He had first come across Apple after “having such problems with computers” during his student years that he feared he was “technically inept.” Apple’s intuitive mouse-driven system suddenly made it all seem so simple. “The reason is, it’s the one place you can go and see everything we’re working on — all the designs, all the prototypes,” Ive says.

The company had been asking him to work full-time for two years, but he had hesitated. His team, from Britain, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, “is really much smaller than you’d think — about 15.

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. Or at least the bits of it they thought they could change.

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. Unlike other electronics giants that make everything from computers to cameras to fridges, Apple makes and has only ever made three things: computers, entertainment devices and phones.

With just a tiny white box with a scroll wheel, he put 1,000 songs in our pocket.

The i Phone was so touchy-feely, it trashed the fiddly Blackberry in a heartbeat. His love of simplicity and directness extends beyond tech.

He was a silversmith who later became a lecturer in craft, design and technology at Middlesex Polytechnic.

It was his teenage love of cars that made Ive decide to become a designer. After leaving Newcastle, he went to work for Roberts Weaver group, the London design agency that had sponsored him through college.

When he left school, he checked out a few car-design courses in London, including one at the Royal College. He left a year later to join Tangerine, a new design agency in the capital’s Hoxton Square.

He collects point’n’shoot cars — the kind that are hewn from a single block of aluminum. So he headed to Newcastle Polytechnic to study industrial design.

He has a few Bentleys and a natty 1960s Aston Martin DB4 in a silvery blue. His work there — notably a telephone and a hearing aid — was so good it was exhibited at the Design Museum in London.

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