It was reported yesterday that the Jony Ive LoveFrom contract with Apple has ended, meaning that the company’s longtime design chief is now fully detached from the iPhone maker.
My own view, though, is that the “news” means nothing, and that the contract has served the only purpose it ever had: preventing AAPL investors from panicking when Ive left the company …
The official story
Apple’s official story has been a three-part one.
First, Ive was promoted in 2015 to chief design officer. He was handing over managerial responsibility for both hardware and software teams so that he could focus more on actual design work.
Apple’s Jony Ive has served as the company’s Senior Vice President of Design for several years now, but Apple has announced today that the executive is being named Chief Design Officer (a newly-created position). Additionally, Ive and will be handing the managerial reins of both the industrial and software design units at Apple over to two new leaders on July 1st.
Richard Howarth will become VP of Industrial Design and focus on hardware. Howarth has been part of the iPhone team since the very first generation of the device was in development.
Alan Dye will now be VP of User Interface Design, which covers both desktop and mobile devices. He was a key player in iOS 7’s major redesign as well as the work on the new Watch OS interface. Both of these executives were mentioned as key Apple employees during the New Yorker and WIRED Apple Watch profiles earlier this year.
(That move was seemingly reversed in 2017, but Apple remained tight-lipped about what it meant in reality, and there was little sign of any actual change.)
Second, in 2019, Ive was leaving Apple to form his own design company, LoveFrom, but would still be working closely with Apple on a consultancy basis.
Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple.
“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking 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 Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “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.”
Third, that contract has reportedly quietly expired. Apple’s position here appears to be that this is not worthy of comment – which is probably the one thing on which we agree.
The likely reality of the Jony Ive LoveFrom contract
As we said at the time of both previous developments, the reality was likely very different – namely that Ive was bored, wanted to work on a broader range of products, and was keen to move back to the UK. He only stuck around as long as he did because Apple gave him two new toys to play with: Apple Park, and the Apple Store redesign.
Seth Weintraub on the 2015 “promotion“:
So there’s this compromise. Ive gets two subordinates to run his two incredibly important programs, then gets to spend a reasonable amount of time in the UK with his kids, who then aren’t forced to grow up talking like Americans and pronouncing ‘aluminum‘ like animals.
What’s Ive going to focus on while he’s out of town? Fry unceremoniously lays it out. He’s going to work with London-based Foster and Partners on the design of the Spaceship Campus 2 project and Apple Retail Stores.
Me on the LoveFrom contract:
I’m very much of the view that Jony Ive leaving Apple really happened back in 2015. I think the idea of the designer freelancing for Apple is PR spin, just as his promotion was the first time around.
Even before 2015, Ive was a hugely important design leader, and the public face of Apple’s industrial design team, but it always was a team effort and there will be many talented people in that team – otherwise Ive wouldn’t have recruited or retained them. His influence and thoughtful approach to design will live on through them. So for Apple it will be business as usual.
The sole purpose of that contract was to stop AAPL investors panicking over I’ve departure.
The “contract” has now served its purpose
The official story worked. Investors didn’t panic, and three years later everyone can see that it is indeed business as usual at Apple. Or, indeed, that in a post-Ive design era, there has been less form over function.
That being the case, Apple has no need to maintain the fiction, and Ive is free from the anti-competitive clause that limited his potential client-base.
The only thing that has ended is a PR story, which has now served its purpose. It’s no coincidence that the news coincides with Evans Hankey getting a high-profile interview in which it is made clear she has been in charge since 2019.
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
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