Is Apple's promotion of Jony Ive too little too late? DigitasLBi, Elmwood, Kinneir Dufort discuss

As Apple elevates its star design Jony Ive to chief design officer, many in the design world have argued that his promotion is overdue for a man that has long-steered Apple's design vision. Here The Drum caught up with DigitasLBi, Elmwood, Kinneir Dufort and Lambie Nairn who offered up their thoughts on Ive's new title.

Simon Gill, chief creative officer UK at DigitasLBi

Perhaps the biggest surprise with Sir Jonny’s promotion is that it actually took so long for Apple, famed for its dedication to great design, to make Ive a C-Level executive.

The CDO title signals the growing importance of design and design thinking in modern organisations as they adapt to the demands of the new economy. Design is best defined as a series of intelligent decisions to solve a problem, and Ive has famously talked about the lengths to which Apple will go to get it right. To find the perfect solution that makes it seem like there is utterly no rational alternative.

The promotion also points to a more holistic view of design. Apple has clearly moved beyond the simple benefits of tight integration between hardware and software to a place where design is used to power innovation and real change, in every aspect of Apple’s being.

In recent years the wider business world has paid particular interest to how Apple operates. So this news will hopefully prompt other organisations into finally putting design at the heart of their business.

Peter Fullagar, head of innovation, Kinneir Dufort

Apple has always lead the market in almost everything it has done, but with this recent title change they seem to be too late in noticing and formalising design at C Level.

To me it feels like they are stating the obvious, that Jony Ive is being recognised for making Apple the design centric business it is today. Announcing this as they have done and elevating ‘design’ to the board at this late stage seems a little ‘un Apple’ – if it has taken them this long to recognise design's importance – how long will it take for the others to catch up?

David Godber, group chief executive officer, Elmwood

Jony's promotion lifts the bar for the world's corporations, and they really should be taking note. We're used to CEOs, OOs, TOs and SOs too, but chief creative and chief design officers are certainly in the minority in the S&P 500. In truth Jony's been leading the zeitgeist, and the brand and design teams for a while. Given his personal history with Apple, his own personal DNA within the brand, his knowledge of where they've come from, his relationships within the organisation and with the supply chain that supports their R&D and future development, well in truth he's the only person who could hold the job today.

And given how genuine he is as a person I don't really think he's too bothered about the title or status, so I think this is probably more about Apple choosing to declare their alignment with investor expectation than any real change within the organisation. In spite of this many CEO's should be following Tim Cook's example and providing a seat for design at the top table, because it's probably the only role in the C-Suite that truly puts consumers at the heart of the executive conversation. And, as we know, consumers are the ultimate paymasters for any business.

Jim Prior, chief executive, Lambie Nairn

This feels like the natural and sensible move. Ive has been central to the Apple success story for a long time already and has long ago cemented himself as the world’s leading ambassador for the commercial value of design. The only surprise here for me is that his remit didn't extend this wide already – I would guess that was a more structural than philosophical hold-up in the organisation.

Ive’s challenge now is to develop the next generation of designers in Apple who can emulate his achievements with the same degree of game-changing brilliance as he demonstrated himself because no individual can keep that standard going for ever. Finding anyone that can reach that mark may prove to be his toughest challenge of all. But for now, it’s a richly deserved promotion and it’s great to see a business that appreciates and rewards the fundamental and transformative value of great design.

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