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Apple design chief Jony Ive confirms company departure after nearly 30 years

After nearly 30 years of shaping the aesthetic of Apple products, the firm's chief design officer, Jony Ive, is leaving the company

Apple’s long-standing design chief Jony Ive is leaving the consumer electronics giant after nearly three decades of service later this year, the company has confirmed.

Ive is standing down to set up an independent design company called LoveFrom, which will formally launch in 2020, with Apple on course to become one of its first clients.

In an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, he said the arrangement means he will continue to be “very involved” with the company for many years to come, while having the freedom to pursue other projects.

“This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change,” he added.

Ive has served as Apple’s chief design officer since 2015, but has headed up its design teams since 1996, and – over the years – has shaped the aesthetic of successive generations of the firm’s flagship devices, including the iPad, iPod and iPhone.

He is responsible for overseeing every aspect of the company’s product design, from hardware to packaging to its software user interfaces, as well as the look and feel of its retail stores.

In a press statement, confirming his departure, Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed the work Ive has done during his time at the company, and the instrumental role he played in transforming its fortunes over the years.

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s ground-breaking 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 Cook.

“Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents  by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built.

“After so many years working closely together, I’m happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony long into the future,” Cook added.

The statement stops short of naming a direct successor for Ive, but it appears his responsibilities will be divided up among several key figures within the firm’s existing design team, including its vice-president of industrial design, Evans Hankey, and Alan Dye, its vice-president of human interface design.

Both will report into Apple chief operating office, Jeff Williams, who is credited in the statement as a design lead on the Apple Watch product.

“After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history,” said Ive in the statement.

“The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Ive’s department comes at an interesting time for Apple and the mobile device industry as a whole, as softening smartphone sales have seen the company place greater emphasis in recent times on the services it offers rather than the devices themselves.

In the firm’s most recent set of financial results, the firm posted a 5% decline in its quarterly earnings for the second quarter of 2019 overall, but experienced its “best ever quarter” for the revenue generated by its services business, which topped $11.5bn.

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