Jony Ive received a nice gift for the Memorial Day weekend: a promotion to the role of Chief Design Officer at Apple, which will broaden his design duties at Apple while handing day-to-day running of the design team to long-time Apple employees Alan Dye and Richard Howarth.
Alan Dye will serve as Apple’s new vice president of User Interface Design and Richard Howarth will take over as new vice president of Industrial Design. Ive took over control of User Interface after the firing of Scott Forstall in late 2012. The new jobs go into effect July 1.
In a note to Apple employees Tim Cook wrote that:
“Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name. His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time. Jony’s design responsibilities have expanded from hardware and, more recently, software UI to the look and feel of Apple retail stores, our new campus in Cupertino, product packaging and many other parts of our company.”
Interestingly, a more hands-on role with the look and feel of the Apple Stores (among other areas) seems to be a big part of Ive’s new focus. In an accompanying interview for the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, long-time Apple fan Stephen Fry, the following exchange reveals a bit about Jony’s thought process regarding his new job:
When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”
“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”
“Exactly. 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. With those two in place I can …”
I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”
Jony will travel more, he told me. Among other things, he will bring his energies to bear – as he has already since their inception – on the Apple Stores that are proliferating around the world.
Title-wise (and presumably in terms of pay?) it’s another step up for Jony, who is almost certainly the single most important person to Apple’s success here in 2015.
I’ve already seen a few people on Twitter worried that this is about Jony phasing himself out at Apple by setting up replacements. I don’t buy that for a second. Although Jony may be stepping away from the day-to-day running of his design team, it looks more like Jony is headed in the direction Steve Jobs was during his last few years at Apple. That means leaving the more managerial aspects of Apple to someone else, while focusing on the future “next big thing” for the company.
At a time when Apple is in the middle of unveiling (in the words of Eddy Cue) its most exciting product pipeline in a quarter-century, it’s the perfect time for him to make the move!