iPhone UI creator Greg Christie departing after falling out with Jony Ive over iOS design direction


Ever since Tim Cook took the reigns at Apple, the firm’s been in a perpetual shakeup mode. The most famous change at the top occurred on October 29, 2012, the day a press release was put out saying “Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple” the following year.

The unexpected change saw Apple’s lead hardware designer Jony Ive assume a greater role as he got to “provide leadership and direction” for Apple’s Human Interface (HI) group across the company, on top of his longtime role as the leader of Industrial Design.

With Ive in charge of all design at the company, Apple has ushered in a new era of visual simplicity with the release of iOS 7 last September, representing the biggest rethinking of the iPhone’s user interface since the handset’s inception.

However, a new report asserts that collaboration between Ive and Apple’s Vice President of Human Interface, Greg Christie, has been a rocky one

In fact, Christie is rumored to be leaving Apple soon as a result of his falling out with Ive over the iOS’s design direction…

The well-informed blogger Mark Gurman has learned from sources familiar with the matter that Christie’s departure marks a new era at Apple as Ive is set to “completely subsume” Apple’s software design group soon.

Christie reports to Apple’s software head Craig Federighi. Prior to this shakeup, he the leader of Apple’s software design group prior as Ive typically attended interface design meetings to providing instructions and general guidelines.

When Ive tasked Apple’s Human Interface team with redesigning iOS 7 to include an entirely new look, Christie and Ive reportedly clashed over design direction, after which Ive is said to have circumvented Christie’s leadership of the team during the new operating system’s development.

Here’s a nice Jony Ive segment from Objectified, the documentary on industrial design.

Christie, along with the ousted iOS architect Scott Forstall, is apparently one of the biggest proponents of skeuomorphism.

Christie is also known to App Store software creators as the herald of Apple’s design aesthetic as he frequently held application design sessions and user-interface review meetings with developers at Apple’s WWDC conferences.

Christie’s name is on the famous slide-to-unlock patent and he’s been credited with at least one more invention, both of which are now being asserted against Samsung in the second California trial.

Last week, he took the witness stand during the second Apple vs. Samsung California trial to testify about the iPhone development, sharing anecdotal evidence on what obstacles the team had to overcome in order to make the iPhone appealing to normals.

jony ive

He was also featured in a Wall Street Journal article that offers a detailed look at early iPhone development. The article quotes Christie as confessing how Steve Jobs back in 2005 gave him an ultimatum: either he would present a compelling vision of what would become the iPhone’sUI or Steve would assign the project to another group.

Christie joined Apple in 1996 to work on Apple’s ill-fated Newton PDA project that featured a touchscreen controlled by a stylus. He continued to work at Apple on Mac software and retained his interest in portable computers until Scott Forstall in late-2004 waltzed into his office, closed the door and asked if he wanted to work on a secret project – the iPhone’s user interface.

Forstall, too, is believed to have had a rocky relationship with Ive.

At any rate, Ive’s just become beyond any doubt the most powerful figure at Apple – not by the virtue of position but considering his wide ranging influences which now encompass tangible and intangible look and feel of all of Apple’s hardware and software.

I remember reading in Walter Isaacson’s bio book on Steve Jobs that Apple’s late co-founder said he’d set things up so no one can touch Ive and this just proves it.

What’s your reaction to this development?

Is Christie’s departure a significant loss for Apple or a change for the better?

And has Ive become too powerful?