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COVID-struck holiday rentals firm Airbnb shacks up with ex Apple design honcho Jony Ive in multi-year deal

No, he's not dragging his cool vintage steamer-style suitcase onto an IKEA armchair in a host villa ... it's a 'special' design relationship

Jony Ive’s design firm LoveFrom has inked a deal with the app-that-takes-a-cut-of-users'-holiday-rentals Airbnb in a multi-year “special relationship,” the short-term gig economy rental platform said today.

This comes at a difficult time for Airbnb, which has seen revenues and bookings plummet in the face of diminished business and leisure travel caused by Covid-19.

Earlier this year, it was forced to raise nearly $2bn across two rounds of mixed high-interest debt/equity financing, in order to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. Revenue for the startup reportedly fell to $335m in Q2 ended 30 June 2020 compared to $1bn last year, and adjusted losses came in at $400m, up from $292m a year earlier.

In a blog post, Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said Ive's LoveFrom would help develop the firm's internal design team.

Well, it's certainly something to spend that financing money on.

“We have made the decision to work together through a multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb products and services,” Chesky wrote. "Jony will also help us continue to develop our internal design team, which he believes to be one of the world’s best. I know he is particularly excited about a relationship that will evolve to become a deep collaboration with our creative team.”

Ive previously served as Apple’s chief design officer before resigning in mid-2019 after a 27-year tenure to start his own consultancy with industrial designer Marc Newson. The Essex-born designer played an instrumental role in the look and feel some of Apple’s most successful products, from the iMac and MacBook, to the iPhone.

In fairness, Ive’s track record includes some major failures too. He joined Apple in 1992, as the business entered its most difficult years. Among his first projects was the Newton MessagePad, which was unceremoniously canned upon Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997. He also designed the PowerMac G4 Cube, which was a masterpiece of over-engineering that largely failed, thanks to its high price.

There’s no suggestion that Ive will end up designing physical products for Airbnb, however one can’t help but imagine what he will do. A slightly thinner carbon monoxide detector with non-removable batteries, perhaps? A landline that only works if you hold it in a particular way? How about a security alarm/ iPod Shuffle hybrid? Two burly blokes are breaking into your home: do you get the police or the coast guard? Oh the possibilities. ®

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