The lead designer of the original iPhone is leaving Apple

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The original iPhone was one of the best looking iPhones.
The original iPhone was one of the best-looking iPhones.
Photo: Apple

One of the top Apple product designers of the past two decades is parting ways with the company, according to a new report that reveals there’s been a big shake-up on Jony Ive’s team.

Christopher Stringer was the lead designer of the original iPhone and was one of the top two or three designers on Apple’s industrial design team. Now he has apparently decided to jettison from the company right before Apple moves into its new spaceship.

A new report from The Information says Stringer is leaving the company, though an official date of departure hasn’t been given.

Stringer has been a designer at Apple since 1995. He and Richard Howarth were the top contenders to take over the design studio when Ive was promoted to Chief Design Officer. Howarth got the job two years ago.

It’s unclear if the 52-year-old Stringer is retiring after making boatloads of money as one of Ive’s right-hand men, or if he’s moving to another company. Apple declined to comment.

How important was Christopher Stringer to Apple design?

Cult of Mac founder Leander Kahney wrote a short biography of Stringer when he researched the design team for his book, Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. An excerpt can be read below:

“Christopher Stringer, born in Australia in 1965, had been raised in the North of England. He attended North Staffordshire Polytechnic in Stoke-on-Trent and graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 1986. A veteran of IDEO — hired in 1992, he helped develop Dell’s design language and won an ID Design Review award for an innovative light switch — he was recruited by Jony in 1995 as a Senior Industrial Designer.

Stringer worked on the early PowerBooks and tower computers. Over the next seventeen years, he would be involved in all the major releases (including the iPhone), peripherals, and in even smaller projects, like the design of product packaging. He was also the first designer to give testimony at the Apple-Samsung trial, where, according to Reuters news service, “Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie.” Stringer was often seen at Apple launch events talking side-by-side with Jony. The impression they are close friends is enhanced by their shared history; both hail from Staffordshire and studied in the north of England.

Jony’s ID group has become a tightly knit team, as many of them have worked together for decades. They no longer design Apple’s products alone, but each product has designated a design lead, the designer who does most of the actual work, plus one or two deputies.

Stringer describes the role of an industrial designer at Apple as “to imagine objects that don’t exist and to guide the process that brings them to life. And so that includes defining the experience that a customer has when they touch and feel our products. It’s managing the overall form and the materials, the textures, the colors. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to building the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.”