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Why Jony Ive is leaving Apple

Jony Ive
Jony Ive (Image credit: Apple)

Wow, I mean. On one hand, I'm devastated. As someone who started out in the business as a designer, Jony Ive and his relationship with Apple was just everything I looked up to and aspired to be.

On the other hand, though, as someone no longer in design, Jony Ive set free but still connected to Apple is something I really, deeply feel.

Cupertino, California — 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.

But, sorry, first. I wasn't going to do this write anything else today. I was going to wait and think on it a bit, and do a deeper, more forward-looking column tomorrow. But then, you guessed it, the Internet happened.

Hot takes began raining down like meteors in a Michael Bay movie. And, as expected a lot of them were just terrible. Like terrible set in comic sans terrible. That why, I ultimately decided to split my coverage in two. To get something short out today and the focus on something deeper for tomorrow.

Exit Jony

"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,"

That's according to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO.

"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."

OK. So what does all this mean?

First, Jony has literally been at Apple since the second coming of Steve Jobs. When it comes to personal computing, he's been there, designed that. He's won more awards and been on more patents than entire companies. Combined.

He's a big part of the reason almost all phones are now singular slabs, why every laptop for a long time was as wedged as air, and why it was so hard for so long to tell any other tablet apart from the iPad. He was the design lead not just for Apple but for the industry.

But he's also a designer. A passionate, beyond talented designer, who outside of a few projects for Product Red, hasn't been able to design much else in two decades. Not a set of chairs or a desk, not a bicycle or a personal jet plane, not a set of knives or grandfather clock.

He's designed the best selling products in the history of best selling products, but that's all he's been able to design. That is, aside from his recent flirtation with Apple Park and Apple Retail.

Why would Jony leave Apple only for his new design company, LoveFrom, to be hired by Apple before it even officially launches sometime next year?

Probably because it's win/win for everyone involved.

First, Apple's no stranger to working with outside design companies. Prior to the age of Ive, Frog Design helped make Apple's products iconic. Apple's also worked with outside ad agencies in the past, with whom they created some of the most memorable ads of all time.

Jony is the reason they haven't been doing it… since Jony. And now that they might start doing it again, either in name only or as a real collaboration, time will tell, it'll be with — you guessed it — Jony. And with Marc Newson, who's joining Jony at LoveFrom, after spending the last few years with him at Apple, not only shaping products in his own right, but as a kindred spirit in a way no one else could since the passing of Steve Jobs.

Second, Jony not only knows everything Apple has done up until now, he knows everything the company is currently working on for the future. His team has been pushing out designs not just for the next generation of products like glasses and cars, but prototyping and brainstorming generations after that.

Having some extra insurance wrapped up around that is in everyone's benefit. Especially because, third, it pre-empts a ton of silly, speculative headlines around what if Google or Samsung or Huawei or whatever competition hired LoveFrom and Jony.

Fourth, it keeps Jony in the Apple family, even if he's moved out and gotten his own space, and that doesn't just cut down on the neighborhood drama, it keeps up the feels in the family.

Enter Evans, Alan, and Jeff

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.

She's not very well known outside Apple at all, but by every account I've heard so far, Evans is beyond solid. She's been effectively running Industrial Design for years, since almost after Jony left day-to-day management there to focus on Apple Park and Apple Retail, and she deserves a ton of credit for a lot of what the team has done over the last few years.

And, yeah, feel free to transform that into blame if you're super salty and spicy about the butterfly keyboard, but it takes a company to let that ship, and I can get into that in a follow up video if you want me to, let me know in the comments, but it's probably fairer to judge her by the next keyboard than this one. Just like the next AirPods and, you know, next design generation of iPhones.

Having her and Alan Dye, who's effectively been running HI since iOS 7, report into Jeff Williams is going to be a head scratcher for a lot of people.

It's a bold choice but I'm not sure it's a bad one. Neither Evans nor Alan are being promoted at this point, and having them go back to reporting into Tim Cook, like they did when Jony was off working on Apple Park, would have felt to me more like Apple had no other idea what to do with them.

Jeff, by contrast, has been running Apple Health and Apple Watch for years. And not just the way Dan Riccio runs some special projects groups or Eddy Cue runs Apple TV. Jeff is incredibly detail oriented and has a real passion for design.

Part of the reason Sabih Khan was promoted to Senior Vice President of Operations was so that Jeff could spend more time focusing on product, including design.

Also, Apple doesn't just mint senior Vice Presidents, let alone C-level execs.

Even two of the most important hires in the history of the company, Jony Srouji who runs silicon and John Gianandrea who runs machine learning took some time to get their SVP power-ups.

If Apple is considering anyone for Senior Vice President of Design, I wouldn't expect to hear about it until after some time passes a big new product or version launches.

LoveFrom, WithLove

"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."

That's according to Jony.

"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."

There's a crucial point there. Apple is absolutely the sum of their people, from Steve Jobs to Jony Ive to Tim Cook, and all the way through. But, everyone will leave eventually. There is a future where none of the current leadership, where maybe none of the current people, will be there anymore. For Apple to last — to truly last — it has to have a soul beyond any single person.

The most important product everyone works on every day isn't the Apple Watch or iPad or Mac or even the iPhone. It's Apple. It's making Apple into something that can not just survive but thrive even after any of them.

Now, you're going to see a lot of people claim Jony checked out of Apple after Steve Jobs passed. Or shortly before he took on the very different challenges of Apple Park and Apple Retail.

And, for some people, even at Apple, both those things are true. For others, for the ones still working with and presenting to Jony on a regular basis, it's going to sound beyond ridiculous.

But the internet, like people, isn't good with multiple truths.

People aren't as simplistic as catchy headlines and hot-takes make us want to imagine. And situations seldom as extreme. We're complicated. We're contextual. And so are our passions and relationships.

Jony led the teams that designed everything at Apple. Then the teams that designed the places to put all those teams and all those things.

He looked upon the breadth of his product portfolio and had no worlds left to conquer. Imagine how that must feel to one of the greatest industrial designers in history. And then imagine what doing something like LoveFrom must feel like, with one of your best mates, and a deal that lets you still create with Apple but also create beyond Apple. Create anything. Whole new worlds. Whole new challenges and potentials.

Product Red electric bikes. Bead blasted aluminium hot tubs. Yo Siri, bubbles. Whatever he wants, can dream up, and will into production.

Ok. It's going to take me a while to really process this. Not only what it'll mean for Apple going forward in the post Jony Ive as chief creative offer age, but what it will mean for Jony Ive and LoveFrom, and what we'll see from both in the not so distant future.

So, for now, I want to thank Jony Ive for everything he's contributed over the course of his career at Apple, one of the most impactful careers in the history of design and consumer products, and I want to wish both Apple's Industrial Design Team and Jony and LoveFrom the absolute best going forward.

Design only exists in the moment of its successful application. And that's the only way to judge Apple and Jony Ive's work going forward. Based on what they ship.

At least that's what I think. Now, I'd love to know what you think. So hit up the comments and let me know.

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

53 Comments
  • " wasn't going to do this write anything else today." Slow down bro... I'm surprised you buy the whole 'working with Apple' angle that they put out there. It's pure fire mitigation on Apples part. If he's not there, he's not there. And honestly it's time for a new take on Apples design, form over function has tipped too far to the form side lately, see the keyboards on the MacBooks.
  • Can we get some to edit/proofread the articles... "But, sorry, first. I wasn't going to do this write anything else today."
  • This place has been in desperate need of an editor forever. Things like this: "And, yeah, feel free to transform that into blame if you're super salty and spicy about the butterfly keyboard, but it takes a company to let that ship, and I can get into that in a follow up video if you want me to, let me know in the comments, but it's probably fairer to judge her by the next keyboard than this one." are just laughable from a supposedly professional writer. Run-on Sentence Of The Decade award winner.
  • Thank you, Jony. Thank you for such classics as the iPhone 6, a phone that looked a lot like the HTC One. The iPhone 6s, which was just the iPhone 6 but with force touch, a feature no one uses, or is even aware that it exists. The iPhone 7, which was the iPhone 6 without a headphone jack...for reasons. And who could forget the mighty 8, which was just an iPhone 6 but with a fragile glass back and a charging technology that had been utilized by Android for years already. And ah yes, the Ten. Sorry...”X.” The phone that looks like it was 95% designed, and at the last minute Apple realized they forgot the selfie camera. The way your design team collectively said “f—- it! Let’s make a notch in the screen!” was simply breathtaking. Sorry, Rene was complaining about hot takes that, to my eye at least, don’t actually exist. So I thought I’d give him one. Also, the MacBooks and iMacs have all been the same for like 6 years now. And do I even need to mention the trash can?
  • This wasn't all Jony's fault, Jony did a lot of amazing things at the company, which I won't bother to list because your attitude stinks. You just look like a complete ******* who judges people for the wrong things that they do rather than the right things. I think your anger is actually aimed at Apple as a whole, because to aim all that on Jony Ive is just a disgusting thing to do
  • Oh man, I knew this would pull you out of the woodwork, and you did not disappoint. This has got to be some of the most gloriously over-the-top vitriol you have ever written here. Did I miss something? Did Jony just get diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor? Did he die in a car crash?No, he quit his job, and got a new one. And I responded to that by making a snide comment, which is based on MY OPINION, and you tell me that’s a “disgusting” thing to do. Please tell me, of the two of us, whose attitude actually stinks? And which one of us needs to find something more important in this world to get so worked up about? We’re talking about Apple, a company worth a trillion dollars, and a man who is supremely wealthy, and who is probably about to get even more wealthy. I don’t think either one of them needs your pearl-clutching nonsense to protect their honor.
  • Jony Ive is a great guy, who's done a load of great things for Apple. He's done some bad too, which is all you had to say, without being incredibly hyperbolic to show how much you hate Apple. It's your attitude that stinks, I don't need to re-evaluate that. If you were supremely wealthy, would you want people insulting you too?
  • Do you actually know Jony, if not, how are you so sure he is a great guy?
  • I suppose what I should've said was "he seems like a great guy", my fault, but he's still done great work and doesn't deserve the horrible message dizzle gave
  • You are just fascinating to watch. I didn’t even say anything truly bad about Jony Ive, just some harmless ribbing about Apple’s choice to release the same phone, 4 years in a row. Yet you react in a way that would suggest that I made fun of his physical appearance, or commented on his wife’s looks, or wished physical harm upon him. Do you actually understand the word, “hyperbole?” I was just making a joke, but in response you called me something that got censored, and said my comments are “horrible” and “disgusting.” Again, I was commenting on the design of a small electronic device. And as a result, I’m “horrible” and “disgusting.” I don’t know for sure, but that seems like a pretty hyperbolic response to an innocent joke. Oh, and PS, I hate Apple SOOOO much, that I own an iPhone, iPad, and Watch. So, you sure got me there.
  • If it was about Apple, then why did you make it all about Jony Ive? You could've just said everything you said without "Thank you Jony" at the start as if he's to blame for all of this. If it was a joke, it was a pretty bad one, let's be honest. The fact that you said "I knew this would pull you out of the woodwork" shows that you knew it was a bad joke, but you went ahead with it anyway.
  • The fact that I said this would pull you out of the woodwork is because you have the emotional control of a 2 year old, and I knew that me saying something bad about Jony Ive would cause you to have an all out tantrum. Like I said, you haven’t disappointed.
  • Hey Danny. See it's not just me.
  • Rene’s hemorroid (Danny) gets hysterically aggravated when someone voices their opinion that happens to be against Apple or its team as if Danny came out of Tim Cook’s load and is the heir to the Apple company when Tim dies. His psychosis is always fun to watch tho.
  • lol right. You guys write like children, using words like kool aid and hemorroids, well done. Do you guys want special gold star stickers?
  • No, Tim and Rene used them all up on you. There are no extra special gold stars left for anyone else. Forever the apple apologist!
  • I haven't actually apologised for Apple on this article, I just simply stated that Jony himself wasn't the cause of all the design issues, which I know you agree with, so it's probably just best to leave it there
  • Please do. You are the one who cannot stop commenting. You think apple does no wrong. No matter what the issues are. Or the facts for that matter. You look at everything through apple coloured glasses.
  • I've already made negative comments about Apple, and you've responded to them
  • Yes you finally made one negative comment. I am thinking now that it was done to try to bolster yourself in our views of you, come to think of it. It was done after I commented here. Nice try.
  • Can't blame a man for trying
  • well. When it's to try to advance one's own agenda instead of being genuine, Yes. We can!
  • I was joking, but I was being genuine. There's a lot of things I would want to see improved on both Macs and iPhones, especially for the price Apple is selling them at
  • "If you were supremely wealthy, would you want people insulting you too?" WTH kind of stupid question is that? What does wealth have to do with anything? No one with any common sense is going to be personally offended by comments to opinion pieces. If you are, then you should not be reading here. BTW, if I was "supremely wealthy", I wouldn't give a flaming S what anyone thought of me. Certainly not some random person on some random comment section of some random web site. I would be wiping my a.s.s with $1,000 dollar bills and laughing about it. I would have better things to do than read this drivel. Seriously, why are you even trying to defend someone that no one here knows personally? A multi-millionaire quit his job from a huge, trillion dollar company and is moving on to Other Things. Who gives an S? Apple will survive. The world will Survive. Rene, (and you) however, may not. Lighten Up, Francis.
  • That "stupid question" was created by dizzle who mentioned the wealth thing first, so direct your anger towards him. I don't really want to defend Jony, but I won't see someone talk about him like he's some horrible human being. And again, as for "Who gives an S", dizzle started this, so I think your whole comment is really just directed towards dizzle.
  • Man, you just keep digging in. Please point to a specific phrase that I wrote, in which I claim or imply that Jony Ive is a “horrible human being.”
  • “Thank you Jony for…” then your horrible accusations. Did you even read your own comment before you posted it or are you that dense?
  • Yes, I accused the head of Apple’s design team of being responsible for the designs of the iPhones 6 through 8. Phones that all looked the same. He was the boss, was he not? Or are you implying he was an indifferent, lousy boss who couldn’t care less what kind of product his department was designing? Which, I think would be a horrible accusation to make, if you ask me.
  • He was the boss of the design team, not the whole company, he could still be overruled.
  • Naddy, I'm not super wealthy, and I don't give two flying effs what anyone thinks of me. Ha ha.
  • Dizzle made the comment about wealth, I only answered it. Jony probably doesn't care what people think
  • You can't stop, can you?
  • I'm not sure what you're implying, but knowing you it's probably something negative
  • I don't understand this post. I thought Jony only did good things, innovating all the amazing stuff that Apple did, and all the other companies stole from them.
  • The macbook line looked the same since the aluminum macbook from 2009
  • I like the aluminum style, I just want to see more significant innovation in terms of the functionality, and if the new keyboards are still creating problems which I believe they are, then they should go back to the old design
  • Me too, however, they need to keep things fresh or sales suffer. As we all see. Macbook sales have been dropping. I know you don't see that in your little apple shaped bubble. The only true design updates that are happing in macbook design are thinner, lighter, hotter and slower.
  • I do see that, the MacBooks used to be really reliable machines but recently have had a lot of issues, so it makes sense.
  • What? Say it ain't so. Danny, 1. Says something bad about apple, and 2. Agrees with my views of the macbook. Woah. Guys, is there a comet shooting toward earth? Next up, apple needs touch and pencil on Mac.
  • I have said other negative things about Apple, and yes I think a touchscreen is the next step for the Mac. Sidecar gives us a glimpse as to what that might be like
  • Agreed. Ive's designs have been stale and repetitive. Nothing on the iPhone line has been exciting since the iPhone 4.
  • I found the iPhone X to be exciting minus the notch. The gesture based controls, edge-to-edge display, OLED display and Face ID were exciting changes to me, and the OLED display works really well with the dark mode in iOS 13
  • I actually thought Rene was going to cry for a moment when watching that video. Ugh.
  • I find that the design team has become a victim of its own dogmas. They’ve been overthinking it and making inferior product designs.. So hopefully Ives departure means they’ll have a refreshed approach and revise their priorities when designing products.
  • Good riddance. His designs have become stale and repetitive. Hopefully Apple can start innovating again with someone else in charge.
  • Happens to many people who have been working at the same job for a long time, but he could've also been restricted by Apple as well
  • Jony's had some hits (iMac being my personal favorite as it's the computer that saved Apple imo) and he's certainly had some misses (the "trash can" Mac & Butterfly keyboard) and I have soundly criticized him but I wish him the best in the future.
  • His resignation letter to Tim Cook was short. All it said was "Ive had enough".
  • Totally. It was apparent from the iPhone ten. Actually, the 7.
  • Jony most likely designed the iPhone X without a notch, then Apple interfered. I think he just wants the freedom to go forward with his own designs without them being blocked or altered
  • I think he checked out long ago and the ten was an apple designed....design, from the get go and nothing of it was Jony's doing. For most things now actually. The new Mac Pro is nothing of Jony's design vision, I can tell you that.
  • Can someone now finally fix the Mac keyboard? To think that this has gone on as long as it has shows something's not right there.
  • Inders99, It's more than the keyboard that needs fixing in the mac. It needs to be thicker with better cooling. Everything inside them is failing quickly because of heat. The batteries overheat, the motherboards overheat, Yes, the keyboard is *****, the screens on the touchbar macbook pros break with NO pressure and nothing put between the screen and keyboard. They are just made to fragile for the sake of "design and thinness". NOT a great design trend at all. This is exactly what Apple needed right now. everything from them is stale, and the same. A shake up in the design team will, I am hoping push them into the present and future. A new touchscreen mac 2 in 1. A full MacOS ipad/surface type device, a better phone system, (hardware wise). The possibilities are greater now when you have the guy who has designed everything apple for 20 plus years gone. His influence will not come into the situation anymore. Apple is now free to push forward with new designs and products from fresh minds. Let's see what happens!