Apple’s Arsenal of Super Geeks – The Brains Behind iOS 7

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Would it surprise you to know that Apple iOS 7’s design was led by a knight? Or that the interface’s 3D feel is the handiwork of a former naval flight instructor?

Considering the mythology that surrounds Apple, perhaps not. Whatever the case, the geeks behind Apple’s hot new operating system are likely to buck your expectations.

 

 


Let’s start with the knight: Sir Jonathan Ive. You may not know his name, but you’ll surely recognize him from all the dramatic videos Apple puts out every time it releases a major new product. Apple tends to keep the design leader of all their i-devices away from the media, but that hasn’t kept Ive from earning a ton of recognition. In 2010, both Fortune and CNN Money named Ive “Smartest Designer.” In 2012, he earned the top spot on Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment” list. And as if that weren’t enough, he was knighted by Princess Anne as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for “services to design and enterprise,” seemingly because his iPod design allows the troops to crank up the tunes as they ride into battle, right?

Inside Apple, Ive’s work is notoriously shrouded in mystery. He has a personal laboratory with tinted windows that only the closest members of his design team are allowed to access. We do know, however, that Ive is in many ways the true flame carrier of Steve Jobs’ prodigious legacy; when Jobs returned to the company in 1997, he named Ive SVP of Industrial Design, where he’s directed the unique and beautiful design of every Apple product you can think of since—from the iMac and all the way to the iPhone 5s.

But what about the guy who once had the same job as Tom Cruise’s nemesis in Top Gun? Geoff Stahl, Apple’s Director of Graphics and Imaging, once served as a naval flight officer in the U.S. Navy, training Top Gun candidates in advanced air intercept tactics for the F/A-18 fighter plane. He’s one of four designers named on the patent for the technology—dubbed Parallax—that gives iOS 7 its signature texture and 3D feel.  

Like Ive, Stahl contributes his own share of mystery to Apple’s arsenal of whiz kids. Most mysterious is the glaring nine-year gap on Stahl’s LinkedIn resume. The gap falls between Stahl’s stint in the Navy, which ended in 1996, and his hiring by Apple in 2005. What did he do during that time to earn a top spot in Apple’s design hierarchy? Whatever he was doing, it must have been pretty awesome. And if you think about it, Stahl working at Apple makes quite a lot of sense, considering the way the company’s sleek products operate with a smooth, military-like efficiency.

Just as interesting are the other Apple engineers named on the Parallax patent. Benjamin Pope was a soccer player at MIT who became an Antarctic researcher — specifically, he studied the diving habits of emperor penguins. (Fitting, since roughly half of people’s time on the iPhone is spent watching cute animal videos.)

Mark Zimmer, another of Apple’s brilliant engineers, helped his dad develop weaponized computation for the U.S. Navy as a teenager. Though in all fairness, he didn’t know the nature of the project he was working on. (The 5s, incidentally, can only be used as a weapon if you have a slingshot and really good phone insurance…) Zimmer is so cool that he initially turned down Steve Jobs, who had personally tried to recruit him. His blog is as interesting as you’d expect.  

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the brightest minds at Apple hail from such colorful backgrounds, considering the uniqueness and ingenuity of Apple’s products. And it’s another good reminder that if you still think of computer geeks as pocket-protector-sporting dorks in the old Revenge of the Nerds sense, you haven’t been paying much attention as of late. Being a geek these days, it turns out, is just about the coolest thing you can be. 


This post was contributed to The Conduit Mobile Blog by guest blogger Joe Lazauskas. Joe is co-founder and CCO of Faster Times Media, a content studio and consultancy firm that helps businesses create exceptional articles, videos, blogs, and social media updates. He’s also a total social media dork.


Joe Lazauskas

Joe Lazauskas is co-founder and CCO of Faster Times Media, a content studio and consultancy firm that helps businesses create exceptional articles, videos, blogs, and social media updates. He's also a total social media dork.