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Apple Is Dropping Industrial Design Chief Role in Post-Jony Ive Era

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(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. has decided not to name a new executive to replace its retiring top product designer. This represents a major shift for a company that has long been praised for the look and feel of its devices.

Evans Hankey, the iPhone maker’s vice president of industrial design, won’t be replaced when he leaves the company in the next few months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. is not. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Instead, the company’s core group of about 20 industrial designers will report directly to Apple’s COO, Jeff Williams. The company will also give a larger role to a group of Apple’s longest-serving designers. Hankey has been with Williams since he joined Williams in 2019 when his top designer, Jony Ive, retired to start his own company.

For decades, Apple’s designers have been some of the company’s most high-profile people. Even around the time co-founder Steve Jobs returned to his Apple before Ive became head of the design department in 1997, executives like Robert Brunner built their reputations on shaping the company’s products. I was getting

Working with Jobs, Ive turned Apple’s design aesthetic into a religion of sorts. They touted clean lines, simple interfaces, and occasional pops of color. For example, the translucent case of the original iMac.

However, Apple’s design group dissolved in 2015, and Ive retired from his day-to-day role with the company. The team was divided into an industrial design department responsible for the hardware and a department responsible for the user interface (the look of the company’s software). Hankey is responsible for industrial design and Alan Dye continues to lead the other groups.

Hankey’s announcement to step down last October — after just three years in office — came as a surprise, and Apple had few clear successors. Part of a wider spill, making it even harder to find a replacement. Since 2015, under Ive, about 15 of Apple’s top designers have left the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant. Bloomberg reported in November that this was hampering efforts to replace Hankey.

Some of the company’s industrial designers moved to LoveFrom, a design and consulting firm founded by former Apple employees Ive and Marc Newson. Still, many veteran designers remain at Apple, including Molly Anderson, Duncan Kerr, Bart Andre, Richard Howarth, Peter Russell-Clarke, and Ben Shaffer.

That group will take on a larger role as part of the shift. However, Williams decided that no one was named the new head and that the entire team would report to him. The move brings Apple’s operations group closer together with design, frustrating some of Apple’s creatives and his staff. It would also boost the status of Williams, who is seen as a potential successor to Tim Cook.

In addition to design, Williams oversees global operations, supply chain, AppleCare customer support, and software engineering for the watch and health initiatives. Direct responsibility for the Apple Watch’s hardware engineering was reassigned to John Ternus, the company’s head of hardware engineering, a few months ago.

Howarth briefly served as head of industrial design from 2015 to 2017, but Ive reduced his involvement after the launch of the original Apple Watch, but struggled to manage his former team of peers. Did. Howarth, along with Andre, has been with Apple for nearly 30 years. Hankey, on the other hand, has been with the company for about 20 years.

Apple has avoided giving outsiders top roles. Taking that step would have been “death for the team,” a longtime member of the group told Bloomberg in November, and didn’t want Dye to handle both designs for his group. .

Still, the company could theoretically appoint a new industrial design head, either internally or externally, should the right candidate emerge one day.

©2023 Bloomberg LP

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