Commentary

Jony Ive, Designer Behind Many Of Apple's Icons, Forms Own Firm

Jony Ive, who has been responsible for the look, feel and much of the appeal of Apple products since the iMac resuscitated  the company in 1998, is leaving as Chief Design Officer to form a design endeavor of his own called LoveFrom.

Apple will be its first customer.

“When Jony Ive became leader of Apple’s design studio in 1996, the company was in a precarious state. It was slashing thousands of jobs to cut costs and many on Wall Street thought the ‘insanely great’ company had simply gone insane -- and might soon go out of business. Within just two years, the turnaround had begun,” writes  Tim Bradshaw in one of six articles in Financial Times examining the reasons behind Ive’s exit and what it means for the future of the company. 

“With cofounder Steve Jobs back in charge, 1998's release of the candy-colored iMac, designed by Sir Jonathan, kick-started a prolific and profitable two decades unlike any other in Silicon Valley history,” Bradshaw continues.

“While I will not be an [Apple] employee, I will still be very involved -- I hope for many, many years to come,” Ive tells  Bradshaw in an exclusive interview available to FT subscribers. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.” 

“Since the early ’90s, the British designer has worked on some of the most iconic consumer technology products of our time, and he will long be remembered as having had a colossal impact  on modern industrial design and software aesthetics. "Through his new design firm, he may very well continue having a massive impact well into old age,” writes  Nick Statt for The Verge in an intro to a collection of videos of Ive over the years tied to pivotal Apple product launches.

Before you sell all those Apple shares you acquired for less than two bucks  in the early aughts that are now trading at around $200 a share, consider  this observation by Therese Poletti and Jon Swartz for MarketWatch: “Many Apple products could use a big design refresh anyway.” 

Ive has apparently been spending less time at the office since Apple employees moved to a new campus in Cupertino, Calif., in 2015. Day-to-day responsibilities have been handled by Evans Hankey, Apple’s vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye, vice president of human interface design. They will now split Ive’s responsibilities without the Chief Design Officer title, reporting to COO Jeff Williams. 

“Both Dye and Hankey have played key leadership roles on Apple’s design team for many years. Williams has led the development of Apple Watch since its inception and will spend more of his time working with the design team in their studio,” accord ing to  the release announcing the changes.

“Jony Ive has been leaving Apple Inc. for years,” writes  Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, pointing out that at least six other members of his “stable, close-knit team” have left in the past three years.

“The departures herald a new era.

The days when Apple could reliably deliver a whole new category of device -- a spare music player, a sleek tablet, an elegant smartphone -- every few years have waned. More recently, the company has focused on iterations of its existing lineup. Now, the company needs another hit, but this one will require fundamental technological innovation, not just the design genius of Ive and his team.”

John Gruber has an insightful post  about the situation on his Daring Fireball blog. “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,” he concludes.

Earlier he made the point: “My gut sense for years has been that Ive without Jobs has been like McCartney without Lennon. Or Lennon without McCartney -- take whichever analogical pairing you prefer. My point here is only that the fruit of their collaborations were, seemingly magically, far greater than the sums of the duos’ talents and tastes.”

It’s perhaps fitting that the movie “Yesterday”  is in its opening weekend. “After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover The Beatles have never existed,” reads  the synopsis. “Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes an overnight sensation with a little help from his agent.”

But in the real world, everything old can’t be new again. As the subhed for an analysis by Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide puts it: “the iPhone maker needs to move beyond its hardware obsession as technology evolves and becomes embedded in everything.”

“It was,” Ovide writes, “time.”

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