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When Steve Jobs Returned To Apple, Jony Ive Thought His Job Was Toast

But of course, the Apple boss loved him. "You know Jony," said Jobs. "He’s kind of a cherub."

Apple Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive

[Photo: Kimberly White, Getty Images for Vanity Fair]

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 as part of the acquisition of NeXT, he had one goal: to scorch the earth and rebuild Apple into the gilded computing powerhouse it once was. Of course, that meant cutting countless stale products from Apple's product lineup, including the eMate and the 20th Anniversary Macintosh. And it meant cutting employees, too.

And one of those people who thought they were out of a job? Lead designer Jony Ive. In Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography by Brent Schlender (who interviewed Jobs frequently over his 25 years covering the Valley) and Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli coming out on March 24, Ive recalls the first time the newly reappointed CEO visited him in his workspace. He thought he was toast.

The first time Steve made the long trek over to the Design Lab, Ive was nervous and apprehensive. "That very first time we met, he had already started to talk about reengaging Harmut Esslinger [the founder of Frog Design, who had designed the first Mac]," Ive says. "He came over to the studio, I think, essentially to fire me."

He didn’t, of course, although Ive felt like he deserved the axe because the products "we were shipping at the time… weren’t very good at all." But Steve took an immediate liking to the introverted designer who, like him, had a knack for "clearly explaining complex ideas."

"You know Jony. He’s kind of a cherub," Jobs would later tell Schlender. "I liked him right away. And I could tell after that first meeting that [former Apple CEO Gil Amelio] had wasted his talent."

For more from Becoming Steve Jobs, be sure to read our exclusive excerpt from the book here.

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