What Jony Ive’s new job means for Apple design

Caitlin McGarry
28 May, 2015
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Without designer Jony Ive, Apple as the world knows it wouldn’t exist. Macs, iPhones and iPads certainly wouldn’t be as iconic without Ive’s industrial magic. The Cupertino company has always prized Ive’s skills, but now the former senior vice president of design is joining CEO Tim Cook and chief financial officer Luca Maestri in the C-suite as Apple’s first ever chief design officer.

Ive established a signature look for Apple’s core device lineup and ushered in a new product category this year with Apple Watch. In his new role, which takes effect from 1 July and was announced in a memo from Cook to Apple employees as well as a glowing profile of Ive in The Telegraph, the design chief can focus his ambitions on high-level, grand-scale design projects like the new Apple headquarters, and perhaps even a car.

Changes for hardware and software

Ive has long held a pivotal role within Apple, and Cook in his employee memo said Ive’s new title is “a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time”. Ive now holds close to 5000 patents on designs he has created at the company.

“He’s not just a designer. That’s why he works directly for me,” former Apple CEO Steve Jobs said of Ive in Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs. “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me. There’s no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That’s the way I set it up.”

Ive already controlled all of Apple product hardware and software design, a role he assumed after software chief Scott Forstall left the company in 2012. That job came with a senior vice president title. His new role affords him an even bigger impact on Apple design – and not just its devices – but also gives more design control to new vice president of Industrial Design, Richard Howarth, and new vice president of User Design, Alan Dye, who have both worked with Ive on Apple design for years.

Dye’s role in the Apple Watch’s software design was detailed in a recent New Yorker profile of Ive, and Howarth is credited with guiding the design of the original iPhone. The two will handle the daily management responsibilities of their respective teams, freeing Ive from the necessary drudgery of administrative work.

apple campus 2

Apple's new futuristic campus

Ive’s next move

Some have speculated that Apple is establishing Dye and Howarth as Ive’s potential successors, which makes sense. Ive has been at this for a long time, and may want to exit on a high note in the next few years. But, for now, he plans to travel more, turning his attention to new Apple Stores, which are growing ever more grandiose in their designs, and the under-construction Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino. According to The Telegraph, Ive has his hand in every design detail of the new headquarters, including the desks and chairs employees will use.

In the New Yorker profile earlier this year, Ive described the design of the building’s staircases, the elevator control panels, the employee security-card readers – minute details you wouldn’t expect from a chief design officer, but that Ive clearly relishes. He would rather design than be a middle layer of management.

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