- Apple is losing Jony Ive, the person most responsible for the look and feel of its iconic products.
- But the departure of Ive is not bad a thing. And it’s not a knock on Ive, either.
- It’s time for a fresh set of eyes at Apple, and the timing couldn’t be better.
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But the company will likely do just fine without him. In fact, the move could be an important opportunity for Apple to rethink the look and feel of its products for the first time in decades.
Ive is the famed designer who worked hand in hand with Apple founder Steve Jobs to shape the physical form of such iconic products as the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. After Jobs’ death in 2011, Ive was widely seen as the leading proponent inside the company for its former CEO’s product vision and design sensibility.
That aesthetic has had the rare distinction of being critically praised, commercially successful, and widely copied. The iPhone largely defined the look and feel of smartphones, the most popular electronics product on the planet. And Ive has been recognised with numerous awards for his design prowess.
Although his departure was sudden, with no apparent warning to employees or immediate rumours before it in the press, it shouldn’t be a big shock. Ive has been with Apple for nearly 30 years. The company is no longer the struggling upstart tech maker, but one of the biggest corporations in the world. In recent years, its focus has been moving away from designing breakthrough electronics products and toward services that it can sell alongside them, such as its streaming-music offering and its upcoming streaming-television service.
And there have been rumblings for years now that Ive hasn’t been focused much on the day-to-day business of designing Apple’s products. For years, his focus was instead reportedly on the designing of Apple’s landmark new California headquarters, commonly referred to as the Spaceship for its circular design. He reportedly oversaw everything from the overall blueprint of the project to the finishing touches, such as the wood and stone used inside.
However much involved he was in designing Apple’s products in recent years, Ive obviously cast a long shadow. The latest iPhones and Macs show the influence of his design sensibility, from their thinness to the solid feel of their cases. People can generally identify an Apple product even before they see the famous Apple logo, and that’s largely thanks to Ive.
But Apple has continued to do well while Ive focused on other things, such as the Spaceship campus. Although its sales have fallen recently, that likely has much more to do with a maturing smartphone market than anything else.
Ive isn’t going away completely. He won’t leave Apple until sometime next year. And the iPhone maker will be one of the customers of his new design firm, according to the announcement Apple made of his departure.
But his move could prove to be beneficial for Apple. Much of the company’s success has been built around making electronics fashionable, of emphasising the importance of design. But it’s probably high time for Apple to rethink and refresh its design aesthetic. After all, at least in their basic shape and form, the latest iPhones don’t look all that different from the original, which came out in 2007. And the latest Mac laptops owe their basic design to the PowerBook notebooks Apple introduced way back in 2001.
Apple probably could stand to have someone take a fresh eye at its designs. Someone who isn’t as committed to thinness as a guiding principle, for example, might be more willing to make space for a bigger, longer-lasting battery in Apple’s phones or a case in which a camera protrudes because there’s no room inside it. Someone who takes things a little less seriously or places a little less emphasis on elegance might channel the younger Ive’s candy-coloured Mac and iPod designs that were fun and light.
Such changes could go a long way to revitalizing Apple’s brand and image. And who knows, maybe the company will find its next Jony Ive in the process.
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