Apple reportedly stopped looking for a replacement industrial design chief. This is surprising, as it’s a high-profile position once held by Jony Ive, who led the team that created the iconic look of the iPhone, iMac and more.
The corporate rearrangement increases the power of Jeff Williams — Apple’s chief operating officer and possibly Tim Cook’s eventual replacement as CEO.
Apple drops Industrial Design chief position
Starting in the late 1990s, Jony Ive led Apple’s Industrial Design team to greatness. Together, they crafted the designs for the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. But he stepped down from that role in 2019.
Apple replaced Ive with longtime employee Evans Hankey. But then she decided in late 2022 to leave the company as well.
Finding a new vice president of Industrial Design apparently proved so challenging that Apple decided to nix the position, according to Bloomberg. Some of the designers from the Ive era followed him to his new company, LoveFrom. Others departed for plum positions at other tech companies. Apparently, Apple felt none of the remaining team had what is needed for the high-profile role previously held by Ive and Hankey.
“With Jony Ive’s exit in 2019, Apple’s elite design team lost its powerful voice inside an incredibly hierarchical company,” noted Tripp Mickle, author of After Steve, via Twitter. “Replacing one of the world’s elite designers — and his decades of political capital — was never going to be easy.”
Apple COO increases in power
The new plan is for the roughly 20 designers to report directly to Apple COO Williams. Previously, Hankey reported to him, so this isn’t that much of a reorg.
Williams is already considered the top contender to be CEO after Cook retires. As COO, he oversees the day-to-day operations of every part of Apple. And he started taking on a larger role in design after Ive’s departure. Apple’s bio on Williams indicates that “he leads Apple’s renowned design team,” so he’s seemingly going to be taking on an even more hands-on approach to every aspect of product design.