Jony Ive and the future of Apple design
The announcement that Jony Ive is leaving Apple shouldn’t surprise any keen Apple watchers, but it’s still a momentous piece of news.
Ive embodied the spirit of the second Steve Jobs era, when Apple’s products always looked distinctive and set a blueprint for others to follow. Sometimes his designs strayed a little too far towards novelty (the anglepoise iMac, anyone?
) but they always stood out.
But as I wrote recently when I bought a Microsoft Surface Book 2 instead of a MacBook Pro, Apple’s designs have now been boring for far too long. Ive had reportedly focused on developing the Apple Park campus for several years, and although he supposedly still had oversight over the company’s consumer products, little of his previous flair made its way onto store shelves anymore.
The last two ‘wow’ moments from Apple in terms of design were the ‘trashcan’ Mac Pro (a ‘mess’
but a mess with striking looks), and the iPhone X’s notch. Even then, the notch is a mere compromise between camera technology and screen size. The notch annoys some people, but pretty much every flagship smartphone from every manufacturer for the next 12 months after the iPhone X’s release featured one, whether it was necessary or not.
Other than that, these days Apple’s laptops keep getting a little thinner, the tone of ‘Space Grey’ changes a little, but other than that… meh? Apple piles them high and sells them expensive, with little thought for setting a new design agenda. Its products still look good, but they don’t inspire.
We don’t know exactly how Ive’s new firm will help Apple, but design doesn’t seem much a priority there anymore, so the answer may be ‘not very much.’
As John Gruber points out
, the future of Apple’s design team raises concerns, with no top-level executive to replace Ive. While his influence may be felt in the appearance of the company’s new products over the next few years as projects in the development pipeline now come to market, I don’t expect we’ll see anything as striking as the anglepoise iMac ever again. A shame.