What does Jony Ive’s departure mean for Apple?

Apple’s chief design officer is leaving after more than two decades to form his own design company. We speak to designers about Ive’s legacy at the technology giant, his latest venture, LoveFrom, and what Apple should do next.

Jo Barnard, founder, Morrama

Ive’s legacy at Apple

“Jony has been at Apple for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Like Steve Jobs, he has and always will be intrinsically linked to the company. While you can sit and pick apart every one of Apple’s products, perhaps more so some of the latest designs, there is no questioning the attention to detail and user experience that has almost flawlessly been carried across every single one of their products. As chief design officer (CDO), Jony has to be credited for that.”

Apple’s next steps

I hope that this will be an opportunity for change at Apple — I feel the latest offerings from them are a bit stagnant. My concern is that without someone ultimately responsible for upholding the design legacy that Jobs instilled, there is a risk it might start to unravel.”

Hugo Jamson, creative director, New Territory

Ive’s future

“In many ways, his next steps might be the most exciting. Ive has said he feels a ‘moral obligation to be useful’ in his next venture, and do ‘something significant’ by building on all he has learnt and achieved at Apple. Set against the scale of those achievements, and the scale of the challenges and opportunities out there in the world, we can only look forward to what he puts himself to next.

Apple’s next steps

The work of defining the baselines of design and interaction for tech devices at Apple has mostly been completed now, and Ive has been a major part of that. Through interface, through material, through form — it now feels like the current world of design for tech is really only about nuance and variations on an existing theme, rather than big, new moves. The key for Apple now is to discover and set the new archetypes we will all live by, in pure tech or elsewhere, using its scale and approach to identify the things we will all need for the next 30 years.”

Matthew Cockerill, innovation consultant

Ive’s legacy at Apple

“Ive has succeeded in getting products to market with single-minded care and attention to detail, which had not previously been seen in mass production. Before him, it was telling how little importance most brands gave to small product design details. A product’s design was often needlessly compromised in the pursuit of the easiest product optimisation. You only have to look at their connectors, cables, power blocks, latches, indicator lights and switches before and after Ive’s tenure to see his influence.

It’s a sign of how much he has succeeded that today his designs seem somehow less radical than they used to do. Competitors may no longer copy the visual design of his products, but they’ve wholeheartedly adopted his design philosophy and approach to how products are built. The latest Google Pixel smartphone, Nest thermostat, Microsoft Surface or Samsung Galaxy simply wouldn’t be in the same league without the work of Jony Ive.

Apple’s next steps

With Apple to be LoveFrom’s first client it’s clear they will benefit from his skills at least in the short term, but in the long term it will be a challenge to find a worthy successor to such an iconic designer, and indeed it may be a thankless task to try. Who remembers the name of the designer who succeeded Dieter Rams at Braun, Richard Sapper at IBM or Kenneth Grange at Pentagram?

The challenge for Apple and his eventual successor will be to work out whether it’s even possible to break free of his legacy and to ensure they don’t simply end up creating iterative pastiches of past products. As they have done before, they will need the courage to forget their darlings in order to create the next generation of great products.”

Dick Powell, co-founder, Seymourpowell

Ive’s legacy at Apple

“All the superlatives have already been used by the great and good of design. Jony will go down in history as probably the most influential designer the world has seen (or at least knows about), sitting alongside his own hero Dieter Rams in the pantheon of greats. Just talking about the fantastic products barely scratches the surface of influence; he embedded design into the deepest recesses of Apple culture. And that influence spread to the world — with his rise at Apple, an appreciation and understanding of design spread through society itself. He changed everything for the better.

Apple’s next steps

I have no fear for an Apple without Jony. That culture of creativity and innovation he helped to create is everywhere at Apple. As he consistently said, he built a fantastic team around him, and they all have the same curiosity, obsession with perfection, attention to detail and a desire for everything they do to be better.

The wider question is more, will Apple continue to foster a design and innovation culture within the whole business or, as the naysayers have it, will it gradually leech away under commercial pressures? You don’t change the culture of a business like Apple overnight, it would take many years to change the business for the worse. Personally, I see Jony leaving as a positive, because it’s an opportunity to move the business on and surprise the public (again).”

What do you think about the future of Apple? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Anthony Polson July 1, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Alec Issigonis never worked at BMW. He was Technical Director at the British Motor Corporation, BMC, where he was responsible for the Morris Minor, the Mini, the Austin/Morris 1100 and 1300, the Austin Maxi and the Austin 1800 among other models.

    However, his cousin, Bernd Pischetsrieder, worked at BMW from 1973 to 1999. Pischetsrieder chaired the BMW board during the 1990s, during which time BMW purchased Austin Rover, the latest incarnation of BMC. The MINI brand remains part of BMW. The rest of Austin Rover was sold off, and expired in 2005.

    • Sarah Dawood July 1, 2019 at 4:40 pm

      Hi Anthony,

      Sorry about that — we’ve removed that reference now.

      Design Week team

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