You are your own worst critic, they say. But when you’ve worked in close quarters with who many think to be a technology visionary and have helped the company he founded to become the most profitable company ever, you probably may have more regrets on seeing your work so spread out in society.

Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive talked with Smithsonian, the publication that is awarding him with an American Ingenuity Award in Technology, about his life of design. While the designs he worked on were impersonal for a reason, he loved putting pencil to paper and thinking about how his work should look and feel.

“I think you only really understand a material—its properties and attributes and, importantly, the opportunity the material allows—if you actually work it yourself,” Ive said. “And the most remarkable point in the whole process is when you make the first model. We might like it, we might not, but the first model you make, everything changes.”

But when the final draft comes down and gets printed tens of millions of times over, how does it look to the person who first set that look into motion? Well, this is what Ive said about the iPhone 7.

And this is what happened when he encountered an iPhone 7 Plus while sitting down with the person that was interviewing him:

Ive places his space-gray iPhone X on the coffee table next to my iPhone 7-plus, whose white bezel frames its rectangle of glass display. Mine is only a year old, but it looks clunky in comparison. Ive picks up my iPhone and gives a pointed appraisal of his own earlier handiwork: “It now seems to me a rather disconnected component housed in an enclosure.”

You would hope to see someone a little more proud of their commercial success — a soft success by Apple’s standards, but still the envy of many in the industry. But a part of looking in retrospect has to do with how minds get changed over time — like how Apple co-founder Steve Jobs went from saying that an iPad shouldn’t exist to liking it.

Jobs loved the iPad, which he called an “intimate device” because it was immersive, like a good book—a window into whatever worlds you chose to explore. “In so many ways,” Ive says, “we’re trying to get the object out of the way.”

Perhaps somewhere in there is the kernel Ive was hitting on: you could objectify the iPhone 7 more readily than the iPhone X.

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