Design guru Jonathan Ive last night landed a prestigious award for his ground-breaking work at Apple, where he heads the group that gave us the iMac, iBook and new G4 Power Macs.

Ive, Apple's vice president of design, was awarded the inaugural Royal Society of Arts Medal for Achievement in Design.

He received the medal from Richard Seymour, president of British Design and Art Direction (D&AD). British-born Ive, 32, was being interviewed by Seymour as part of the annual A&AD President's Lectures.

Ive won rapturous applause from the 500-strong lecture audience gathered at London's Institute of Education in Bloomsbury.

The medal - for continued excellence - will be presented every three years to former winners of RSA Student Design Award (SDA).

As an industrial-design student at Newcastle Polytechnic, Ive bagged two SDAs - one for outstanding interactive-media work, and another for an "off-the-wall" telephone design.

During the two-hour lecture, Ive - who started working full-time for Apple in 1992 after operating as a consultant to the company with London-based design firm Tangerine - lifted the lid on the highs and lows of his seven years at Apple. He said the company's recent success was down to "the vision and personality" of interim CEO Steve Jobs.

Ive put Apple's decline in the early 1990s down to the company "losing its direction" in the Jobs' absence.

"Apple started doing what its competitors were doing, rather than following its own course. Quoting megahertz was never part of Apple's vision. It was a tragedy, really... Reading all those newspaper articles got dispiriting, but one journalist warned me to get worried when the papers stopped following Apple... that's when they just don't care any more," he added.

Seymour asked Ive why things changed. "Some people left," the designer quipped, adding that the remarkable turnaround should be credited to Jobs.

Turn-up for the iBooks Shaven-headed Ive - looking like he'd just stepped off the Wembley terraces in rolled-up jeans and black T-shirt - also gave the audience a detailed insight into the creative and industrial processes behind his mould-breaking designs for the eMate, the G3 PowerBooks, the G4 Power Mac and, of course, the iMac range.

Apart from showing off various Apple ads, Ive wowed the audience with never-before-seen photos of his products' interiors. Each iBook, for instance, has a tiny spanner set behind the plastics for emergency screen replacement. "It's details like these that make Apple so special," he explained.

Ive also revealed that the Apple design team originally wanted to have the iBook's entire power adaptor plug (power connector) casing glow with amber light during recharging and green when fully charged. However, as they could achieve only partial success in this regard, Ive and his cohorts left the innovative amber/green glows to the power-socket ring only.

Other Ive facts: The clear plastics on the new iMacs, Power Macs and Cinema Display had to be redesigned as a lens. Its the refined shape of the new iMacs that allowed the design team to dispense with the noisy interior fans - hot air circulates quicker around the slightly squatter plastic case, and pours through the handle's many vents. The iBook's built-in antennae determined "the shape of the whole product".

During a brief Q&A (the design wizard claiming jet lag), Ive was asked: "What's next?". "I couldn't possibly talk about that," he answered with a smile.