Jony Ive Leaving Apple is a Good Thing
In a statement that can be described as both shocking but also expected, Apple announced that after nearly 30 years with the company, Chief Design Officer Jony Ive will leave his post later this year. Ive, who was the lead architect behind the designs of Apple’s most iconic products—including the iPhone, iPod, Apple Watch, Mac, and even Apple Park—is leaving Apple to start his own independent design firm. And even though he won’t be directly employed by the Cupertino-based company any more, Apple said that it will be one of Ive’s primary clients at his new firm, keeping him closely tied to the company on a range of projects.
“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,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the statement. “Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built. After so many years working closely together, I’m happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony long into the future.”
While perhaps a difficult pill to swallow—we'll certainly miss those intoxicating product launch videos voiced byJony—the reshuffling of the design team at Apple has really been a long time coming. As Bloomberg pointed out in its report of Ive’s departure, the company’s chief designer has been slowly distancing himself from Apple anyway, only coming into the office a handful of days a month and even missing out on some of their product launch events.
Concerns of course exist as Ive leaves Apple, with many wondering where the design expertise and direction will come from. But the opportunity for new ideas and new leadership to step up in this regard could perhaps be a blessing in disguise for a company that has been craving that industry-changing, revolutionary-type product launch for some time now. And with Ive still serving in an advisory kind of capacity, his input will still be there if and when it’s needed.
And it’s certainly not a knock against Jony, but his strength at Apple has been in designing beautifully crafted products that make perfect existing consumerized technologies. Right now, Apple’s concern is finding ways to craft new and innovative products with technologies that either aren’t ready for the mass market or that don’t even exist yet. That’s a lot to ask of a company, no doubt, but for Apple to achieve that kind of product launch—for the third or fourth time in the last decade or so—requires them to put more emphasis behind research and development, and less around the incremental product improvements we’ve seen over the last two or three years.