Jony Ive Leaving Apple For His Own Firm, Will Retain Apple as Client »


Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple.

Of course, this was foretold on Connected earlier this year:

I gotta say, I didn’t have Jony Ive in mind when I made that prediction, but here we are.

Joking about a podcast aside, this is obviously huge news, but I think the bigger news is further down the press release:

Design team leaders Evans Hankey, vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, vice president of Human Interface Design, will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. 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.

“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. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history,” said Ive. “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.”

For the first time since Steve Jobs promoted Ive, is seems that the Design team at Apple won’t have a seat at the table as an independent voice. Obviously none of us know the ins-and-outs of this, but it sure seems like a massive change in how Apple works at the very top.1

Some have said that Ive has had too much power over the years, and claim Apple has put aesthetics over usability in many of its products. Clearly, there are examples of that, but when the system was working well, the relationship between design and engineering at Apple led to some incredible products.

I believe that will still be the case after the dust settles. There’s no doubt we’re entering a new era when it comes to the company, and with Ive’s job being split into two — and a woman leading the industrial design team for the first time — I’m excited to see what may change about Apple’s products.

  1. To help offset Williams’ additional responsibility, Apple has named Sabih Khan SVP of Operations. Khan has been Apple since the 1990s. Also, Jeff Williams is totally the next CEO.