Now the Real Jony Ive Era Begins at Apple

An executive shuffling at Apple leaves its legendary industrial designer in charge of the whole interface experience.

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ANDREW COWIE / AFP via Getty Images

British designer and the senior vice president of industrial design at Apple Jonathan Ive

First a disclaimer: I’m no expert on corporate intrigue at Apple. I know that the company announced changes that involve the exits of Scott Forstall and John Browett — the guys in charge of iOS and the Apple Stores, respectively — and greater responsibility for key executives Eddy Cue, Craig Federighi, Jonathan Ive and Bob Mansfield. But I don’t have any insider scuttlebutt.

I do, however, know huge news when I see it. And I did, in Apple’s press release on the changes:

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.

For all of Ive’s incalculable impact on Apple’s products since the late 1990s, he’s been a hardware person; other people have run the software for Macs, iPhones, iPads and other devices. Generally speaking, the arrangement seems to have worked well — certainly, Apple has had the smoothest integration of hardware and software of any company in its field.

Now Ive will call the shots for the whole Apple interface experience. To my knowledge, the only other Apple employee who exercised that responsibility in the past was Steve Jobs. (Sure, the buck stops at Tim Cook for everything, but I’m assuming that he doesn’t fuss over dinky little design details. At least I hope he doesn’t…)

If you wanted to charge one person with making sure that Apple’s devices were as pleasing as possible, Ive is the obvious first choice, and I’m not positive whether anyone qualifies as a strong runner-up. At some point, it should become obvious if his expanded role is taking Apple software in a new direction; the logical guess, given his interest in streamlined, relentlessly consistent design, is that skeuomorphism — the kind-of-campy mimicking of real-world details like plush leather and shiny wood surfaces — may become a thing of the past.

The bottom line: Ive has always been one of the most important people at Apple, but with this reshuffling, he gets the opportunity to become the most important person at Apple. That makes this the most important thing that’s happened at the company in the post-Jobs era.

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Although I am still considerably doubtful about the Mini's value at it's current price point both in comparison to the Gen 4 IPad and the other 7" tablets, this move does sound like it will benefit Apple and it's customers in years to come.

It seems to me that in fact he is neither hardware engineer or software designer, he is further up the food chain than that.

He will be the primary interface for how they look, how they feel and how they work.

His team will be in charge of realizing that vision.

In the case of Apple having someone with a "streamlined, relentlessly consistent" vision is critically significant in the success of their products.


If Steve Jobs were alive today, heads would roll over that maps snafu!

Scannor9912 1 Like

I think it's potentially bad news (if you're an Apple fan). Is there any evidence that Ive can do good UI design? Or even any publicly known examples of what his vision of Apple UI would look like? As an Apple shareholder and user of both iOS6 and Android Jellybean I 'm a little concerned that we're witnessing the year where the momentum shifts to Google and possibly even Microsoft (scary!). Jellybean has got iOS solidly beat in both features and for the first time user experience. The only thing holding Android back is fragmentation and existence of really crappy hardware - which are both huge obstacles, to be sure. 


@Scannor9912 You raise good questions; it's true that I'm taking a leap of faith on his ability to do good software. I'm just being optimistic, based on his obvious smarts and time spent working with Steve Jobs, and the potential benefits of having one person in charge of the whole interface.


@Scannor9912 Ive won't do OS design : that will be Federighi, who's pretty awesome, and more a team player - less egomaniac than Forstall. 


This is amazing news, I'm excited about the future of iOS again.

JohanFrederikHelGuedj 1 Like

Excellent news. Ive is the most Jobs-like guy at Apple. They will somehow recreate the two-horse ride Jobs-Cook.