Jony Ive, Apple’s design guru, departs

Apple chief design officer Jony Ive (L) and Apple CEO Tim Cook © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Is Jony Ive’s (left) exit Tim Cook’s fault?

Jony Ive, the designer of the iMac and iPhone is leaving Apple. The news comes at a difficult time. Matthew Partridge reports.

With the departure of design guru Jony Ive Apple is “getting a taste of luxury’s less lustrous side”, says Tom Buerkle on Breakingviews. Ive and his “sleek” designs have “defined the marriage of style and function” at Apple, starting with his iconic design for the Apple iMac in 1998, which was credited with helping turning around the company’s fortunes. Ive then “repeated the trick” with the iPhone, which “ushered in the smartphone age and enabled Apple to charge ever-higher premium prices, much like a Paris fashion label”. However, just as many fashion houses have struggled after losing their chief designer, replacing Ive might be a “painful process”.

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has only himself to blame for the loss of the company’s main creative force, says Tripp Mickle in The Wall Street Journal. Despite running “what was arguably the most successful design operation in business history”, Ive had been growing “frustrated” by the fact that Apple’s board “became increasingly populated by directors with backgrounds in finance and operations rather than technology or other areas of the company’s core business”. This in turn prompted him to withdraw from day-to-day management of the design team “leaving it rudderless, increasingly inefficient, and ultimately weakened by a string of departures”.

It’s not fair to blame Cook, says Mark Gurman on Bloomberg. Ive’s departure “has been a long time in the making” . Having been at Apple for more than 25 years, it was inevitable he would eventually choose to stand down from what has been a “really taxing job”. The idea of doing “incremental upgrades” to a mature product line may have looked increasingly unattractive. In any case, Ive may not have been the best person to carry Apple forward, since any new products “will require fundamental technological innovation, not just the design genius of Ive and his team”.

Is Apple past its sell-by date?

Whatever the causes of the rupture, Ive’s decision to leave Apple comes at a “tricky moment” for the technology giant, says Julia Carrie Wong in The Guardian. It seems to have “faltered” ever since it passed the trillion-dollar market capitalisation mark: witness “increased competition”, the “slowing demand for smartphones” and the “escalating trade war between the US and China”.

It’s true that Apple faces a “daunting” challenge says the Financial Times. Still, “fresh thinking and new blood can do a company good” – as Ive himself proved during the 1990s. Many experts have argued that Apple needs to end its “hardware addiction” and work on its services. There are signs of progress: with “the new Apple TV+ streaming service and a games subscription package called Apple Arcade”, the company seems to be focusing on creating “an ecosystem including apps, virtual assistants and more”.