In an article Tuesday titled “Pundits Believe Apple’s Jony Ive No Longer Involved in iPhone, Mac Product Design,” AppleInsider reports that journalist Jason Snell and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber speculated on a recent The Talk Show podcast that Ive, who is Apple’s Chief Design Officer, may be now more focused on architectural projects like the upcoming Spaceship campus and special initiatives such as Project Titan than industrial designs related to the iPhone, iPad, Mac and other consumer products from Apple.
Based on comments that he had heard over time, Gruber believes that Ive “has assumed a Jobs-like role” within the company and is now heavily involved with projects like the massive iSpaceship campus and store design with retail head Angela Ahrendts:
I’ve heard that he has lately been not as directly involved with product design and that he has been largely focused on architecture. Meaning mostly, obviously the Spaceship campus and the new stores. And maybe the other top level executive who’s been working the most with Ive is Angela Ahrendts.
And this from Snell:
For a while there the talk there was that they were going to make a car, and they recalibrated that to making bits of a car, and I have to wonder if that was a little bit of a hit for Jony Ive because he is a car guy, and perhaps one of the reason they went down the path of making their own car is that Jony Ive was excited about doing car design, and it sounds like they made the decision to back away from that.
AppleInsider adds this:
Gruber and Snell postulate that Apple’s car project, recently rumored to be dramatically scaled back, was originally started at Ive’s bidding, and the rumored collapse is the herald of Ive’s future departure from the company.
Gruber thinks that Ive, 49, “may only be spiritual leadership at this point.”
There’s no solid proof for any of this beyond hearsay.
I, for one, don’t really think that Ive is totally detached from Apple product design these days. On top of that, the designer continues to be prominently featured in polished promotional videos as the narrator who explains the company’s thought process, design solutions and product features.
In many ways, Ive’s become Apple’s arbiter of cool following Jobs’s passing and I don’t think that the company’s pricey new photo book titled “Designed by Apple in California” was his vanity project, nor would I chalk up Apple’s rumored Project Titan to Ive.
It’s one thing to persuade the board of directors to back a photo book or a gold-plated Apple Watch, but convincing the board to support a potentially multibillion dollar initiative such as a self-driving or electric car is completely another thing.
I do think, however, that Ive’s role change from Senior Vice President of Design to Chief Design Officer signals his evolving responsibilities which now include all design across Apple. In a May 2015 interview with The Telegraph, Ive said that the new role lets him focus on blue sky thinking.
British-born Richard Howarth took on Ive’s previous role as the head of industrial design whilst Alan Dye, another Ive lieutenant, took over UI design across the company.
“Richard is going to be our new head of Industrial Design,” said Ive. “And this is Alan Dye, the new head of User Interface.” Ive can be seen belo photographed standing between Dye (left) and Howarth (right).
Asked why he would relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control, Ive told The Telegraph’s Stephen Fry the following:
Well, I’m still in charge of both. I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start.
He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him.
Ive’s bio page on the Apple Leadership webpage echoes this sentiment, clearly stating that his duties as Chief Design Officer include the look and feel of Apple hardware, user interface, packaging, major architectural projects such as Apple Campus 2 and Apple’s retail stores, “as well as new ideas and future initiatives.”
Photos: Gabriela Hasbun for The Telegraph.