'Objects that changed the world': The industry reacts to Sir Jony Ive leaving Apple

Jony Ive with Tim Cook in 2018, courtesy of Apple

Sir Jony Ive has announced that he is leaving Apple, where he serves as chief design officer, later this year. The design guru, who has put his creative stamp on iconic designs like the colorful iMac, the iPod and the iPhone, is leaving to start his own business, LoveFrom.

Ive, whose designs were central to the company for two decades and helped bring Apple back from the edge of bankruptcy in the late 90s, will still have sway at Apple, as it will be his new company's first client. But his departure announcement made waves in the design, tech, marketing and financial worlds. Gizmodo reported that Apple Stock took a 1% ($9bn) dip after the announcement.

Those communities reacted to the news as if Ive was gone, with accolades coming in and stories being told, even though Ive's move seemed inevitable to some. But it does seem an apt time to look at his massive influence.

Steve Jobs once said of Ive: "If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it's Jony."

Ive grew up in Essex in the UK and studied design at Newcastle Polytechnic, where he designed his first phone. He worked in London at a design consultancy where Apple was a client, then went to Apple in 1992. From there, stardom was assured, as he helped design the candy-colored iMacs that wowed the tech world and made Apple a desired brand.

But in fact, Apple didn't elevate Ive to chief design officer until 2015, which many people felt was not only long deserved, but too long.

"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," Simon Gill told The Drum in 2015.

But his designs spoke volumes before his title did. His most recent feat was helping to design and build the $5bn (rumored) Apple Park corporate campus in California.

"Through Apple’s work — the work Ive did with Jobs — consumers came to reevaluate the things we interacted with in everyday life. We would never see the world through Jony Ive’s eyes, but we learned to try. Our wallets emptied as we tried to satisfy our newly honed tastes," Steven Levy wrote in Wired upon hearing the news of Ive's departure.

Dave Snyder, chief creative officer of design and techology agency Firstborn, told The Drum: “Jony Ive introduced design — as a concept — to the public; our collective consciousness. He showed the public that it mattered. These were objects we lusted over. Objects that not only shaped culture but drove culture. Objects that changed the world."

Amy Cotteleer, chief experience officer, Duncan Channon added: “Jony Ive’s work at Apple altered not just our industry, but the trajectory of culture. The products he built upleveled the way consumers interact with their world, along with their expectations for how elegantly products should look and feel.

“This move is significant in that it makes the Apple aesthetic accessible to brands who in the past could only aspire to create at the level of Jony. Although Apple will continue to work with him and his award-winning creative team remains in place, it will be interesting to watch the influence his design aesthetic has on another generation of consumer products - and how that impacts and perhaps democratizes or diminishes Apple’s monopoly on his legendary creative vision.”

“Sir Jony Ive has created an incredible body of work shaping what is arguably the most enviable product design aesthetic across the globe. I’m excited to see what he does next," said Connie Birdsall, global creative director at Lippincott.

David Angelo, founder and chairman, David&Goliath stated: “Jony Ive is one of the most prolific, innovative and fanatically devoted product designers of our time. He redefined the technology industry with a signature aesthetic that challenged convention and was beautifully simplistic and revolutionary at the same time. I remember the moment they launched the candy-colored iMacs, which was one of Ive’s earlier designs – it actually saved Apple.

"All you have to do is look around you; his legacy is everywhere – in the hands, on the wrists and in the homes and offices of consumers around the world. In a way he set the gold standard for design in tech. His creative contribution is massive, leading up to his latest design of the company’s headquarters, Apple Park. He is an outlier, much like Jobs, a true artist, and he’s raised the creative bar so high he’s showed us by example that anything is possible as long as you stay true to the brand."

What Ive does next will continue to align with Apple, though it will have a separate identity in LoveFrom, which he attributed in a Financial Times article to a quote from his mentor, Steve Jobs. He will continue to work with Australian designer Marc Newson, as well as other diverse creatives from around the world, he told the FT. But what LoveFrom will ultimately be is still a mystery, and that's what intrigues many in the industry.

Mark Sloan, head of Mother Design in New York, stated: “I’m less concerned about his legacy at Apple — that’s already been beautifully documented. Jobs would hate for us to be 'looking in the rear view mirror.'

"I’m more curious about what sort of future he’s going to create in collaboration with Marc Newson. Hopefully LoveFrom turns some of their attention towards solving the world’s pressing problems with design. Making expensive products that we all crave but few can afford would be the obvious play — a more enduring legacy would be great design for everyone. A plea to people with large checkbooks and a desire to (meaningfully) change the world: fund these people.”

Added Matt Kandela, chief executive officer of Brooklyn-based design company, Dear Future: "The greatest lesson one can take from Jony Ive is that great design is a symbol of love for the end user and a demonstration that their needs were thought about and cared for... design and advertising is fixated by the new. By doing something different, Jony Ive helped educate us that ‘different’ and ‘new’ are actually not that hard. Doing something that is genuinely better is the hard thing. It’s a good lesson for us all. We don’t need new, we need ‘better’.

"Jony Ive could have stayed in his Ivory tower (or Cupertino Spaceship) 'til kingdom come, but instead is forging a whole new path. I’m sure everyone will take this moment to look back on his remarkable achievements, but it’s more exciting to think about what he can achieve in the future, with the world as his canvas, rather than a technology company," said Kandela.

"As far as Apple without Ive, I’d like to believe that much like Steve Jobs was to a certain extent Ive’s mentor (and soon the two became creative collaborators), that Ive will be passing the design baton to those he mentored along his nearly three-decade career. And it’s not like he’s leaving Apple for good; he’ll still be touching Apple products, except from a different vantage point,” concluded Angelo.

The news comes the same week that Publicis chief creative office Nick Law annoucned he was leaving to join Apple as its new vice-president of marcom integration.

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