How ThinkPad Designer Richard Sapper Could Have Been Jony Ive

In an interview with Dezeen, the German designer recalls turning down a job offer from Steve Jobs.


In an interview published today on Dezeen, Richard Sapper reveals that he could have been Jony Ive. Steve Jobs tried to hire the German industrial designer, who is responsible for creating IBM’s iconic ThinkPad, the Tizio lamp, and other cutting-edge designs. In fact, Sapper tells Dezeen’s Alyn Griffiths that he was under an exclusive contract with Big Blue when Jobs came calling:


Jobs once wanted to hire me to do the design of Apple [computers] but the circumstances weren’t right because I didn’t want to move to California and I had very interesting work here that I didn’t want to abandon. Also, at that time Apple was not a great company, it was just a small computer company.

[IBM’s Thinkpad]

Sapper, now 81, recounts how Jobs stopped by for a personal studio visit:

Apple has been a real exception because it was a company that, up until last year, still worked as my old clients used to work. They would come and see what I do, they would tell me their opinions and it was just [Steve] Jobs who did that. He absolutely wanted to make beautiful products.

[Sapper’s Tizio lamp for Artemide]

You may remember that Jobs turned to another German designer, frog Founder Hartmut Esslinger, to design the second round of Apple computers, following the introduction of the IIe. (Go here to see all of his designs that never saw the light of day.)

So does Sapper regret his decision? You betcha. “Sure I regret it–the man who then did it makes $30 million a year! [Laughs] so how can you not regret it?”

Read the full interview here.

[Images: Richard Sapper via Designline, Thinkpad 701, Jed Carroll via Flickr, Tizio via Flickr]

About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.