Jony Ive is leaving Apple after more than two decades in which his iconic designs for the Mac, iPod and iPhone turned one of Silicon Valley’s faded giants into the world’s most valuable company and defined a generation of consumer products.
Sir Jonathan is setting up his own new venture, a creative business called LoveFrom, with Apple as its first client. The transition will begin later this year, with LoveFrom launching fully in 2020.
“While I will not be an [Apple] employee, I will still be very involved — I hope for many, many years to come,” Sir Jonathan told the FT in an exclusive interview. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.”
The departure of the world’s most famous industrial designer and the custodian of the entire Apple aesthetic — from its hardware and software to its physical architecture — will come as a shock to its investors and customers. Many see Sir Jonathan as one of its most crucial assets as it looks beyond the iPhone into a new phase of products and services.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, sought to play down the changes as an “evolution”, pointing to an expanded group of in-house designers that is “the strongest it’s ever been”.
“We get to continue with the same team that we’ve had for a long time and have the pleasure of continuing to work with Jony,” Mr Cook told the FT. “I can’t imagine a better result.”
Nonetheless, news of another leadership change so soon after retail chief Angela Ahrendts left in April, at a time when trade tensions between the US and China have destabilised iPhone sales, brings yet more uncertainty for Apple investors after a tumultuous first half of 2019.
Sir Jonathan, who was knighted by the Queen in 2012, has provided vital continuity for Apple’s strategic vision since the death of its co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011 and is seen by some observers of the company as more important than Mr Cook to its pipeline of future innovations.
No immediate successor
No immediate successor will take Sir Jonathan’s title of chief design officer, which he has held since 2015. Alan Dye, who oversees Apple’s user interface team, and Evans Hankey, who now leads industrial design, will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, who also played a key role in the development of Apple Watch.
Little is known about LoveFrom but Sir Jonathan has ambitious plans for his new business, which he said would be based in California “for now”. Marc Newson, a longstanding friend and collaborator who became part of Apple’s design team in 2014, will also join the new firm, alongside what Sir Jonathan called “a collection of creatives” spanning several different disciplines beyond design.
While he would not be drawn on the full extent of LoveFrom’s work, Sir Jonathan said that he would continue to work on wearable technology and healthcare, two of Apple’s strategic priorities, as well as various “personal passions”. Apple will retain LoveFrom for design services relating to a variety of unspecified projects but LoveFrom will also take on other clients.
“There are products that we have been working on for a number of years,” he said of his continuing work at Apple. “I’m beyond excited that I get to continue working on those, and there are some new projects as well that I’ll get to develop and contribute to.”