Photo by Apple
Jony Ive Leaving Apple to Form a New Company
Apple has announced that Chief Design Officer Jony Ive will leave Apple later this year to form an independent design company, which the Financial Times reports will be called LoveFrom. In the wake of the death of Steve Jobs, Ive and his designs were seen as a key factor in Apple’s continued success. His departure, particularly following that of Angela Ahrendts (see “Apple Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts Leaving in April,” 7 February 2019), will undoubtedly send heads spinning, which is why Apple was quick to point out that it would be one of the primary clients of Ive’s new company.
Although Ive was largely responsible for the design of ground-breaking products like the original iMac, iPod, and iPhone, design flops like the iPod Hi-Fi, round Mac Pro, Magic Mouse 2, and first-generation Apple Pencil also occurred during his tenure. Worse, Apple’s fetish for thinness under Ive has driven unpopular technical decisions, such as the loss of the headphone jack on iPhones, the need for many MacBook users to carry dongles, and most notably, the train wreck that is the butterfly keyboard (see “Apple Updates MacBook Pros with 8-core Processors and a Keyboard Fix(?),” 21 May 2019). John Gruber’s commentary at Daring Fireball echoes the post-Jobs wonkiness of Ive’s designs. Reports have indicated that Ive has become less involved with the day-to-day work in recent years, and he has likely felt constrained by his position at Apple. Some will mourn Ive’s departure, but it’s better to see it as a golden opportunity for Apple to chart a new direction in design.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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. 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.
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?
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?
Anyone curious on this topic should listen go Gruber’s conversation with with Ben Thompson. Ben predicted this downfall 4 years ago!
All good things do come to an end. Who knows - perhaps Jony is dried up for new ideas or the relationships were just not conducive to such anymore. We’ll never truly know, will we.
I’m typing this on a iMac keyboard that is just fine for me. I’ve always had trouble with my fat fingers and typing on my iPhone or my iPad, but I do it. I’m using High Sierra on my iMac and have no trouble with it. My only complaint is when iTunes changed to being Cloud-based and I lost a lot of music that has taken me in inordinate amount of time to recover.
On Adam’s recommendation, I bought my grandson a Mac Powerbook last fall for engineering school at Cornell. He’s an ORIE major. He adores it and says it serves every need he could possibly have! No complaints about the keyboard, either. He also loves my old iPhone 6S and his iPad Air II.
We had some pretty amazing products and designs come out of Apple in a very short period of time. That’s not realistic in perpetuity. We cannot constantly be “wowed” - just not possible.
I don’t mind not being “wowed” with constant new improvements, but I do intensely mind Apple having turned Ives loose on Mac software, flouting the Human Interface Guidelines heretofore espoused by Apple, and ripping away from me the productivity of an Apple product I already owned and was using successfully.
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 and was an unconscionable betrayal of the trust Mac owners placed in Apple products and in Apple’s integrity. We were turned into expendable guinea pigs as our existing equipment was rendered borderline usable.
As I explained above, thousands and thousands or more of Mac users spent more than a year trying to implement workarounds which would enable them to read the screen and do productive work on their Macs without recurring eye fatigue and headaches; and the deluge of complaints on numerous Mac websites did nothing to persuade Apple to reverse the damage for over a year.
I looked at them. And then I looked at my bank account.
Over at TechCrunch, Matthew Panzarino has penned a response to all the FUD surrounding Ive’s departure.
It’s a good piece.
I must have missed the iPod with HiFi —but perhaps I’m better off without it. I love the Apple Pencil; I use it constantly with my iPad Pro (10.5 inch) and have it in my hand so often, that I frequently try to use it on my iPhone!
“Ive was largely responsible for the … design flops like the iPod Hi-Fi, round Mac Pro, Magic Mouse 2, and first-generation Apple Pencil”
Yes, love my pencil 1.
The first-generation Apple Pencil works well with the iPad Pro, but it suffers from a couple of huge design flaws, as evidenced by how quickly Apple put out the second-generation. Making it perfectly round ensures that it rolls away whenever it gets a chance, there’s no way it can stay with the iPad Pro easily, plugging it into an iPad with the Lighting jack just looks horrible and is an accident waiting to happen, and the cap is really easily lost. The second-generation Apple Pencil resolves all these flaws, but sadly, only by being dedicated to the new iPad Pro models.
And upping the price…
A cockatoo literally chewed one of the key caps off my 2014 MBP keyboard, and the key still works fine. The cap is nowhere to be found but the key still works going on 4 months. Luckily it’s the function key which I’ll note would also be of no use on a new MacBook. Can’t make this stuff up. Maybe I can finally upgrade in 2020. Good thing I don’t use emacs or I’d have to remap my keyboard to SPARCstation (those infernal machines!)
Honestly I’m not sure even after working as a software engineer for 10 years that I ever heard from a colleague of just one or a few keys failing on any other keyboard. It’s not as if keys are bad pixels on LCD screens. I even have generic PS/2 keyboards over 20 years old that still would work perfectly fine if only there were any PS/2 ports to plug them into, that’s what a debacle the butterfly keyboard is. Maybe the IT guys but I never even heard of a keyboard failure that didn’t involve a whole cup of coffee or can of Mountain Dew. Even with the Dew they still tend to work; they just might be a little sticky…
Lenovo laptops even come with numpads to this day! (Not that I’d want one but maybe if you’re a serious Excel jockey.) Bottom line, keyboard is an essential laptop component that can’t just break for no reason. If I wanted a $1500 tablet I would have bought a $1500 tablet.
“What ruined Apple wasn’t growth … They got very greedy. Instead of following the original trajectory of the original vision, which was to make the thing an appliance and get this out there to as many people as possible, they went for profits. They made outlandish profits for about four years… What that cost them was their future. What they should have been doing is making rational profits and going for market share.”
—Steve Jobs, 1995
When I bought my iMac this year, I chose the extended bluetooth version of the keyboard. I ended up swapping it for a Logitech Craft keyboard, a much better typing experience, the key travel, the scalloped keys, the backlighting, the three bluetooth radios. The Apple one wasn’t bad but there was no pleasure in it.
Many years ago a cookie crumb fell in between two keys while I was biding time in Starbucks. One key flew off (not powered by cockatoo) when I was trying to pry the crumb out with my fingernail, and someone walking by happened to step on it. My MBP was still under Apple Care, and to show how long ago it was, I was able to walk it over to a recently opened nearby Apple Store without having an appointment. After waiting about 15-20 minutes, during which time I was busy trying to concoct a credible b.s. story so they wouldn’t charge me for the fix, I just handed my MBP over to the Genius who immediately walked to the back and returned a minute or two later with a new key, no questions asked.
Trying to get something fixed at an Apple Store in NY City metro area now is like entering the ninth circle of hell, and you have to wait practically forever for an appointment and check availabilities at bunch of Stores to scope out the shortest of all the unconscionable waits. But wherever you are, it might be worth contacting Apple to see if they can sell you a key or ship it, and this way you don’t have to deal with the current crop of not very intelligent Geniuses who don’t know very much about fixing anything, especially Macs.
I was going to say I had my entire case replaced because of faded keys on my 2015 MBP Retina (which I should have had done on my 2008 unibody), but I think the case replacement was due to the little foot that fell off.
And it WAS the ninth circle of hell since they sent it back to Apple for the repair! It was back to me much sooner than they said, but still nerve-wracking for 3 keys and a foot - those are things that should be easily replaceable.
Back in the days of old when Apple’s Genius knights were bold, the Stores were always well stocked with replacement parts for just about everything, and just about everything was done in store. Granted, this was in the past, and iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Watch, Air Pods, most likely makes stocking more challenging. But excellent, speedy support and services, along with knowledgable Geniuses, in Apple Stores was always a big selling point and competitive advantage. For the moment, they still are, but Samsung has been testing Apple Store knockoffs, and the one in NYC does phone and tablet repair:
I suspect that the departure of Jony Ive might have been influenced by the recent butterfly keyboard and $10-17k Watch disasters, and he did also work with Angela Ahrendts on Apple Stores. He should have increased space for repairs and service, maybe sectioning of an area so people standing around with iMacs won’t have people elbowing through crowds tripping over them. Maybe he was too busy with the Apple Park redesign?
It warms my heart whenever someone complains about Apple’s design decisions that affect actual usability.
As a designer, I find it remarkable how Apple went from thoughtful, well-researched, and thoroughly detailed, Human Interface Guidelines (the 1992 printed edition of the Mac HIG is one of my most prized material possessions) whose application was evident across the (then-Classic) Mac OS to so-vague-they’re-almost-useless suggestions that pale in comparison to the what Google has put into creating and documenting their Material Design approach.
Compare this to this video which, at the core, is almost all about aesthetics and hardly related to interactions and usability. It’s ironic that it’s Federighi who addresses the functional side of things, which, of course, should be the very focus of the designer.
But this, of course, is exactly what you get if you put someone in charge of interaction design whose focus is on making things “thinner and lighter” — metrics that simply make no sense at all in the context of human-computer interfaces.
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