Jony Ive Leaving Apple to Form a New Company

Originally published at:

Design legend Jony Ive is leaving Apple later this year to start a new company. Apple says it will remain a client.

Jeez, Josh, I hope you know how much I love your articles, but I can’t help but think this one is off the mark about Jony Ive’s importance to Apple. I think I’m safe in assuming you typed it on a physical or screen keyboard Ives designed for either Mac OS or iOS, which he designed. Or maybe you dictated it via an Apple Watch. In any event, I doubt you typed it from a phone containing a physical keyboard, as I doubt that there are many that still exist.

Ives was the person who designed and implemented Steve Jobs’ vision for iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad Watch and carried on his legacy, making technology intuitive, easy to use and fun. Under his watch, Apple metamorphosed into the most valuable company in the world. There are over a billion Apple devices in active use, and chances are that Jony Ives designed at least 99.9% of them. IMHO, he was the guy with the “i” that helped Steve Jobs change the world.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, certainly, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re not nearly as big fans of Ive’s recent work as you are. Keyboards are in fact one of thing that’s been terrible under Ive. Typing on the glass keyboard is incredibly slow and error-prone, so much so that it drives many people to Siri’s haphazard dictation. And the butterfly keyboard is, as I edited Josh’s original to say, a train wreck. It’s the sole reason I’m still using a 2012 MacBook Air. I’d argue that under Ive, usability testing completely disappeared at Apple. Just look at iOS 7, which tons of people couldn’t even see because of all the thin gray type.

There’s no question his earlier work under Jobs was innovative and forward-thinking, and in more recent years, the Apple Watch was very well done. But apart from the debacle that was the round Mac Pro and the upcoming Mac Pro (where the jury hasn’t yet had a chance to meet), the industrial design of Macs in particular has at best evolved in tiny ways (MacBook Air, Mac mini, both very slowly to boot) or stagnated entirely (27-inch iMac). I guess the iMac Pro falls somewhere in the middle, but neither it nor the Mac Pros are exactly mainstream.

When it comes to the iPhones, I continue to absolutely hate having the side button opposite the volume buttons, so it’s nearly impossible to press one and not the other. I hate the bulky size, and I hate how slippery they are, forcing the use of a case that makes them even larger and more unwieldy. These are just my opinions, but they’re some of the reasons I’m not at all sad to see Ive leave. And regardless, it’s a done deal—he wanted to go, which might have been an indication that he was bored at Apple too.

The question is if Apple will be able to replace him with someone who will once again want to stand out from the crowd, and if Apple’s executive team will see that as important. Gruber’s concern that the designers are now reporting to the COO is spot on. And of course, radical design changes are always a risk—sometimes they turn out to be terrible, as with the round Mac Pro. But I haven’t seen any think differenting from Apple in terms of design in a long time and it would be refreshing for the company to go after that brass ring again.

1 Like

You TidBITS folks are right on the money.

Jony Ive’s best days have gone by (maybe to really shine he needed Steve’s guiding hand?). Lately much of his time was spent on Apple Campus and while that might be important for Apple as a company looking for a monument (and possibly some of their employees), to us customers and users it is not. Apple did great work already before they moved to this temple. And they would have been able to do great work in any other (even generic) office building. They have plenty of those around the world to proove that point. If Jony wants to focus on that kind of stuff or if Apple would rather have him do that from afar, that’s great.

This will be a good chance for new talent to come up. And possibly a good chance to shift focus from materials and form, back in favor of performance/functional engineering. If you have faith in Apple and Steve’s legacy, you have nothing to worry about. If not, well then you have a lot more to worry about than just proximity of Jony’s office to HQ.

1 Like

Oh, Jony… very few of us older folk can keep up the creativity and energy of themselves 20+ years ago. (Present readership excepted, of course.)

I am definitely an Apple-Guy but mistakes and misplaced priorities affect a great tech company like Apple too. One of my concerns: lack of MBP ports for peripherals because of thinness. Dongle-Darn-It!

You can delete the MBP glowing keyboard toolbar too, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m glad to see him go too. Though i’m not hopeful that they’ll find someone who will actually put the real human interface guidelines, consistency, and easy feature discovery back. Even if they do, it will be several years for it to work its way through the pipes.

1 Like

Adam, in the past I’ve suggested you see Apple with rose-coloured glasses. Your comment covers many of the fundamental issues (inconsistent software quality, what Lloyd Chambers calls “core rot” and deliberate sabotaging of repairability are the two other big ones) with Apple in the last seven years. It’s great to hear you call Apple on these issues loud and clear.

Thank you, Sir! At least now I know I’m not the only iPhone user who couldn’t wrap his head around why Apple would adopt the silliest aspect of Samsung phone design.

When I went from my old 6 to an SE it was really great to have the on/off switch back where it belongs.

This is a very succinct way of putting it and I’m afraid you might be right.

It’s ironic. I remember back in the mid 80s there were reports about how Apple would test various prototypes of workflows or software design aspects on actual users off the street. They’d have hundreds of regular people perform certain tasks each while accompanied by somebody who monitored and noted what they did, what problems they encountered, how long it took to complete the task, etc. That data was the basis of how they iterated and improved their design. It sounds like they have strayed far from those days. My wife, an industrial psychologist, tells me to this day that is how many companies (automotive for example, but even cancer therapy devices) test their equipment for usability long before it ever reaches the market. It would be a true shame if a company that used to be trailblazer in this approach to ensuring consumer usability abandoned its own ways in favor of… what actually?

For me, Jobs and Ive were a team. They took risks, scored huge wins and the occasional dud, but Apple became what it is because of them.

The restructuring Cook did in the aftermath of Jobs death put Ive front and centre, he cleared out the product lines with updates across them, he cleared out Forstall from management who Ives couldn’t work with, and put Ives over software and hardware. A blank canvas and clear path forward. He bet on Ive to deliver.

You could argue the merits of what was made, some wins (the watch), some losses (the Pro), some issues hanging on (damn keyboards)… It’s not been what it could have been, let’s perhaps agree on that.

Ive stepped back, it seems to me, about three or four years ago, made some smart hires, receded from public view.

Clearly he was done and looking for other things. Whether it was automotive or architecture, it’s immaterial in a way. Cook did not replace him and he should have.

The worry is that it has taken this long, with this outcome, and we still don’t have a replacement for Ive. Frankly, even keeping him as a consultant is worrisome. If I was Cook, I would not be using him as a consultant, I would be drawing a line in the sand and investing in someone new.


Very well said, @tommy. Couldn’t have put it that clearly myself.

1 Like

I can see why Tim did this. Thinking about AAPL shareholders, it might be scary for them to know that the successful designer of most Apple products was completely gone… with no trusted replacement named. Now we must trust in Tim to keep us safe.

1 Like

I cannot forgive Ive in particular and Apple in general for his/their knowing violations of the human interface guidelines. Turning him loose on Yosemite was a huge blunder. I spent more than a year trying to implement workarounds which would enable me to read the screen and do productive work on my MBP without recurring eye fatigue and headaches; and thousands of complaints on numerous Mac websites did nothing to persuade Apple to reverse the damage for over a year, maybe longer.
In 2015, I had my annual eye checkup with a new physician, and found that my problem was so common that even he was aware of the uproar among Mac users who were complaining about problems with readability and eye fatigue and loss of skeumorphism with Yosemite.
Apparently the complaints were coming not merely from older Mac users but also from younger users who used their Macs in production and graphics work.

10B was wiped off the shares on the news release. Yes, he mattered, the company is the defining example of design for most of the planet as Marilyn points out.

As I see it, the issue is how long Cook has let this run and it is still uncertain. Not an easy replacement, not many out there with profile, but I wish we were all checking out who this new person was and what she or he had done in the past. A sense of possibilities opening up alongside these assurances of guidance from trusted hands.

That’s probably what Cook was hoping for with the hire that Ive made, Richard Howarth, while he designed Apple Park. Then I recalled people did leave earlier this year from the design team. Old blood doing out their time probably after a heads up from Ive.

All speculation of course, and in any case, it hasn’t worked out that Apple are pushing Howarth forward at a press event, for whatever reason.

Apparently both sides had become rather unhappy. (emphasis mine)

Ive is said to have promised to hold a “design week” each month with software designers to discuss their work on the, but he rarely showed up. Even when he was involved, Ive’s leadership over key decisions seemed weakened. … After the iPhone X launch in September 2017, a key designer left and others were considering leaving, as Ive’s absence strained the cohesion central to product development.

Around this time, Ive had reportedly become “dispirited” by Cook, who is said to have “showed little interest in the product development process,” according to people in the design studio. Ive also grew frustrated as Apple’s board became increasingly populated by directors with backgrounds in finance and operations rather than technology or other areas of the company’s core business.

I’d love to say I still use an Apple keyboard, but I typed that article on a cheap Victsing mechanical keyboard that Jony Ive would probably turn his nose up at. :slight_smile: Apple’s keyboards make my RSI flare up.

I think it might be time…just like successful football/basketball/whatever coaches eventually need to move on…the approach gets stale.

Ive is certainly a genius designer…but some of his designs have flaws. Most importantly…he’s overly enamored of thin-ness as the be all and end all…even if it means that you can’t have ports or a bigger battery or a keyboard that works. While I like the keyboard in my 15 rMBP…later ones have had a lot of reliability issues. Shorter key travel one can really pretty much get used to…but having it be sufficient robust to be reliable is critical…and making it thinner so that this years model can be 0.1 mm thinner than last years’s model is not good design when it results in failures.

1 Like

Just FYI, Tim Cook is vehemently denying the WSJ article.

Thank God! Jony’s arrogance that because he is an excellent HARDWARE designer he was also the ultimate software UI designer has done more damage to the Mac & iDevice operating systems than anyone else. I wonder if that arrogance led him to think he could push out Tim Cook but he failed?

1 Like

I can’t remember who, or if it was in the keynote or an interview later, but they said that Hover Text is so wonderful for the mac because Dynamic Text doesn’t really make sense for the Mac. I nearly choked. Dynamic text, along with a requirement for developers to use it, is exactly what the mac needs because of so many monitor sizes and pixel sizes. Hover Text, like Zoom in any form, is only a bandaid on an amputation.

Josh, did you look at the Matias “Ergo Pro”, “Quiet Pro” or “tactilepro” keyboards?