Jony Ive leaving may be just what Apple needs now

The new Mac Pro is sticking around.
The new Mac Pro is sticking around.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Jony Ive, the design director who had a hand in fashioning nearly every Apple product released in the last 20 years, is leaving the company.

Ive, who received a knighthood in his native UK in 2012 for his design work, revealed in an interview with the Financial Times today (June 27) to launch his own design firm, LoveFrom, in 2020. He will be joined at his new venture by his friend and Apple design colleague Marc Newson. One of the company’s first clients will be Apple, Ive told the FT.

Other than founder Steve Jobs, few have had more impact on the Apple products that consumers have scooped up over the past two decades. He joined the company as a designer in 1992, in Apple’s doldrum years, working on the team that designed the Apple Newton, a personal digital assistant too far ahead of its time. After Jobs returned to the company in 1997, Ive worked his way up the ranks of the design team, becoming responsible for the design of the first iMac, the colorful, bulbous, and much-loved desktop computer that sparked a design revolution within the company.

Ive led the design of almost all of the company’s iconic products over the new century, including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, helping create the nearly trillion-dollar behemoth that is Apple in 2019.

Promoted to “Chief Design Officer” in 2015, Ive took a broader role, reaching beyond its hardware projects. He spent a large portion of his time designing the company’s new $5 billion headquarters, along with the architect Norman Foster. Ive reportedly labored over the plans in painstaking detail for the project, which saw people walking into glass walls when the complex finally opened.

Not everything Ive touched turned to (rose) gold—some of his eyebrow-raising designs frustrated users. Apple’s insistence on using a proprietary type of key design on its recent laptop keyboards has led to broken keys, consumer outrage, and lawsuits. The company has also been criticized for merely iterating on the same basic design of iPhones and laptops.

Ive’s more hands-off approach in recent years may have led to some of these more questionable recent decisions—just as  many of Apple’s biggest competitors have started to figure out their own design languages. So perhaps some change at the top will be refreshing. Investors were displeased, however; the stock price was down about 1% to $197.75 in after-hours trading.

His departure will afford Ive the ability to take on new projects outside of the consumer-technology hardware he’s been known for at Apple (though he has been known to help design the odd table and credenza for Apple). It will also perhaps allow for some new ideas to flourish at the company.

Ive’s design aesthetic has governed Apple for years. The company is still doing extremely well, however the iPhone is starting to waver in popularity. Pushing to stave off any shortfalls in demand for its longtime cash cow, Apple has turned to launching new services to keep customers locked into its ecosystem. Services revenues, growing steadily, still don’t come close to the cash iPhone rake in. As Apple searches for what comes next, it may now have a chance to find an entirely new designer to think outside the aluminum-and-glass box Ive so carefully crafted.

His departure means CEO Tim Cook is losing a second top deputy in four months. In February, Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, announced she was stepping down after five years. Her role was combined with the duties of Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human-resources head.

The company wasn’t immediately available to comment on who would be replacing Ive. Perhaps now, though, we’ll finally see the cups that Ive has been so interested in designing for years.