The man who shaped iPhone, Jony Ive, is departing from his position as Apple’s chief design officer to start his own independent design company LoveFrom. After 27 years at Apple, he will now transit later this year, and LoveFrom will formally launch in 2020. Apple will be one of Ive’s primary clients through his new design company and he will continue to work closely on projects for Apple.
“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park, where recently he has been putting so much of his energy and care,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO in the official press release.
Ive has helped create some of Apple’s most recognized and popular products. He joined the firm in the early 1990s, and began leading Apple’s design team from 1996. He became the senior vice president of industrial design in 1997 and subsequently headed the industrial design team responsible for most of the company’s significant hardware products. During his stint at Apple, Ive has worked on products, including a wide range of Macs, the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and more. He also had a hand in designing the company’s “spaceship” Apple Park campus and establishing the look and feel of Apple retail stores.
Since 2012, Ive had overseen design for both hardware and software at Apple, roles that had previously been separate. Apple said on Thursday the roles would again be split, with design team leaders Evans Hankey taking over as vice president of industrial design and Alan Dye becoming vice president of human interface design.
“This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change,” Ive said in the interview to the Financial Times. “After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer,” Ive said in the press release. “Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history. The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
On the Ive-Jobs-Cook conundrum
Jony Ive and Steve Jobs had shared a close relationship. According to Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, the two would have lunch together every day and talk about design in the afternoon. Jobs considered Ive a “spiritual partner,” according to Isaacson’s book. After the death of Steve Jobs, there was speculation that Jony Ive might one day move into the chief executive’s office. However, it was Tim Cook who took over. Tim was more interested in managing the supply chains than focusing on innovating new products and devices. Ive’s presence has helped deflect some criticism that the company has lost some of its innovative flair after Jobs’ death.
John Gruber, a writer, and the inventor of the Markdown markup language wrote a blog post on Ivy’s departure pointing out the big difference between Ive under Jobs and Ive under Cook. He says, “This news dropped like a bomb. As far as I can tell no one in the media got a heads up about this news. Ever since Steve Jobs died it’s seemed to me that Ive ran his own media interaction.” He further adds, “From a product standpoint, the post-Jobs era at Apple has been the Jony Ive era, not the Tim Cook era. That’s not a knock on Tim Cook. To his credit, Tim Cook has never pretended to be a product guy. My gut sense for years has been that Ive without Jobs has been like McCartney without Lennon.
On Ive working with Apple post departure, he writes, “This angle that he’s still going to work with Apple as an independent design firm seems like pure spin. You’re either at Apple or you’re not. Ive is out. Also, Apple’s hardware and industrial design teams work so far out that, even if I’m right and Ive is now effectively out of Apple, we’ll still be seeing Ive-designed hardware 5 years from now. It is going to take a long time to evaluate his absence.
I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced.”
People on Twitter seemed to agree to Gruber’s analysis
This piece is an absolutely accurate analysis of the departure of Jony Ive from @Apple, IMO. It has been coming for a long time. And it’s not a disaster. As @gruber notes, there’s been a big difference between Ive under Jobs and Ive under Cook. https://t.co/3LOaaOcGrh
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) June 28, 2019
This is very smart @gruber analysis https://t.co/PTAXPu0vmZ
— nilay patel (@reckless) June 27, 2019
Very balanced take on Jony Ive.
"Today’s MacBooks are worse computers but more beautiful devices than the ones they replaced. Is that directly attributable to Jony Ive? With these keyboards in particular, I believe the answer is yes." https://t.co/7abZQu4uCL
— Kanishk Dudeja (@kanishkdudeja) June 28, 2019
Others celebrated Ive’s work and offered him their best wishes.
Jony Ive, leaving Apple after decades to focus on what he loves the most – Design. Thank you for making those beautiful things! More spotlight on the inspirational soul, please. #design #JonyIve
— Surabhi (@surabhi140) June 28, 2019
Thank you, Jony Ive, for designing beautiful products such as:
…and every shitty Android phone that looks like an iPhone, 😂
— Shravan (@Shravster) June 28, 2019
Ive is the second major departure for Apple this year. In April, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts left the company. Her departure drew mixed reactions from consumers and critics. Though Apple has been recruiting some high profile people this year. In April, Apple took a major step towards strengthening its AI team by hiring Ian Goodfellow, as the director of machine learning. Recently it also hired high-profile marketing exec Nick Law, previously the chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe. The company also recruited Michael Schwekutsch, the Tesla VP overseeing electric powertrains, as a Senior Director of Engineering at the Special Project Group.
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