Apple announced the upcoming departure of design chief Jony Ive last week, but this was a separation that had been in the works for some time. Ive withdrew from the company's leadership over a period of several years as CEO Tim Cook emphasized business operations over product design, the Wall Street Journal reports. That left Ive increasingly frustrated. One result, after 23 years as possibly the best in business, was a weakened and inefficient design team. The departure of Ive signals that operations now rules over design at Apple. The company has become centered more on software, services and profit margins than on a series of hardware products that each appear to be a leap forward in technology—and design.
Ive will still do work for Apple, which will be a client of his new design firm. But a formative and successful era is ending: Ive was a protege of co-founder Steve Jobs. Their partnership produced success after success and made design king at the company. Jobs once told a biographer that Ive was the second-most person at Apple. One lesson in their story, brought to attention by Ive's departure, is how to hire. In the beginning, computers were office machines; design didn't seem important. And Ive's designs to that point weren't much. But making Ive chief designer was brilliant, per the Harvard Business Review. Computers were on their way to becoming products for the home, and would have to look like it. Jobs was looking to where the product was going, not where it had been. (Read more Jonathan Ive stories.)