SAN FRANCISCO — Jony Ive, the Apple design chief behind the iconic industrial design of products like the iPhone and iMac, announced Thursday he is departing after decades at the company, continuing the reshuffle at the top ranks of one of the world’s most valuable technology giants.
The Cupertino, California–based company said Ive would leave at the end of the year to start his own design firm, LoveFrom. Apple will be the firm’s first client, and the company said it would work with Ive’s new venture on a range of products.
“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,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement.
The exit of the famed designer marks the most significant change to Apple’s leadership since the death of its founder and CEO Steve Jobs in 2011. Revered inside the company for his design aesthetics, Ive is credited with developing products including the iPhone, iMac, and iPod and creating the elegant packaging and presentations that made them some of the most desired electronics in the world.
With Ive’s exit, Apple must now contend with another high-profile executive departure this year after Angela Ahrendts, the company’s senior vice president of retail, left in April. In a press release, the company said design team leaders Evans Hankey, vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye, vice president of human interface design, will report to COO Jeff Williams.
In an internal email to employees obtained by BuzzFeed News announcing Ive’s departure, Cook said, “We will all benefit — as individuals who value great design, and as a company — as he pursues his passions and continues his dedicated work with Apple.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ive said he will no longer be an Apple employee but will “still be very involved.”
“There were some significant projects that I feel like I’ve completed,” he said when asked by the FT on why he was leaving. “For example Apple Park — this was a project that started in 2004. … A couple of weeks ago we had our official opening of the Park. That was a really significant project, that was unlike many of our others, because it was for us.”
While Ive offered little detail about his new firm, LoveFrom, he noted that Apple designer Marc Newson would be joining him there. Ive also hinted at a future focus on wearable technology design.
“There are some areas that are personal natural passions for me,” he told the FT. “The work that we’ve been doing with wearable technology — with technology becoming more personal, there is an inevitability that it becomes worn.”
Read CEO Tim Cook’s full email to Apple employees about Jony Ive’s departure below.
Team,I’m writing to let you know about some changes to the ET involving two people who embody Apple’s values and whose work will help define Apple’s future.I’m happy to announce that Sabih Khan has been named to the executive team as senior vice president of Operations reporting to Jeff Williams. Sabih has worked on every Apple product since the late 90s, always committed to delighting our customers while advancing quality, sustainability and responsibility in manufacturing. His team makes possible some of the most beloved — and most complex — products in the world, and Sabih leads them with heart. I am thrilled to have him overseeing our supply chain.Today, we also mark another important evolution for our company. After nearly 30 years at Apple, Jony Ive is starting an independent design firm which will count Apple among its primary clients and will depart the company as an employee later this year. Jony’s contributions are legendary, from the central role he played in Apple’s revival beginning in the late 90s, through the iPhone and perhaps his most ambitious project, Apple Park, where he has put so much of his energy and care in the past few years. I am proud to call Jony a friend, and those who know him know his ideas and curiosities are boundless. We will all benefit — as individuals who value great design, and as a company — as he pursues his passions and continues his dedicated work with Apple.Of all his accomplishments, Jony cites the team he helped to build as one of his proudest. His longtime collaborators, Evans Hankey and Alan Dye, are strong stewards of Apple’s design ethic and creative culture. Collaboration and teamwork are defining features of Apple’s success across the company.Evans and Alan will report to Jeff Williams. As many of you know, Jony and Jeff have been close collaborators and partners for many years. In particular, Jeff’s leadership in developing Apple Watch brought together a cross-organizational team, unprecedented in scope, to produce Apple’s most personal device ever. This is what Apple does at its best: elevating a category beyond its imagined limits, and revealing how a single device can be so much more than the sum of its parts. I’m incredibly excited about the design team’s work, both underway and yet to come.Tim