While Apple’s announcement that design chief Jony Ive is leaving the company came as a surprise to most of us, his departure may have been several years in the making.
A report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman offers new details on Ive’s involvement in the day-to-day design operations at Cupertino. And it suggests that Ive’s departure was more of a “long goodbye” than a quick decision.
Ive was Tired
According to Gurman, Ive began to “shed responsibilities” after the Apple Watch first launched in 2015.
Reportedly, that’s because the Apple Watch was “the most difficult” project he had since joining the company, Ive told The New Yorker back in 2015. After it launched he was “deeply, deeply tired” because of the personal strain the work put on him.
In the wake of the Apple Watch’s debut, Ive’s oversight of the design team was reduced to heading to Apple headquarters as little as “twice a week.”
Shortly after that, Ive was named Chief Design Officer — a role that shifted the day-to-day responsibility of overseeing the hardware and software design teams to Alan Dye and Richard Howarth (who will take key leadership positions after Ive leaves).
It’s hard to overstate how influential
The industrial designer was the mastermind behind some of Apple’s most iconic and important projects, such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Ive played a major role in saving Apple from bankruptcy in the late 1990s.
Gurman notes that, when Steve Jobs died in 2011, Ive became “the most important person” at Apple. He ultimately decided what Apple products would launch, how they would work, and what they would look like.
Ive also built a roughly two-dozen person design team that has steered Apple’s aesthetic and functionality for more than two decades. Of all the things he has done at Apple, Ive said he is most proud of developing that team, and the general design process and culture at Cupertino.
A New Era for Apple
While Ive will continue to work with Apple for the foreseeable future, his departure still heralds the end of an era.
According to Bloomberg, at least six members of Ives’ design team have left over the past few years. Those departures, as well as Ives’, signal a new era for Apple. And it isn’t clear what that new era will entail.
In the past, Apple routinely delivered new product categories every few years. Those days are over, since Apple now seems focused on simply updating its current lineup.
One person at Apple told Gurman that people are anxious. Veteran Apple staff members reportedly “don’t want to keep doing incremental updates to current products.”