In 1996, two people joined the team at Apple: Steve Jobs returned from his excommunication to head the company and Jony Ive came in to help design some of the company's new products. While Jobs left the company before passing away many years ago, the era of his leadership has remained in Ive's designs. Nearly 23 years later, the Steve Jobs Era is officially coming to an end, as Apple announced Jony Ive's departure. CEO Tim Cook said,
Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple's revival cannot be overstated, from 1998's groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park, where recently he has been putting so much of his energy and care.
Jony Ive will be founding his own design firm, where he will get the opportunity to work on projects that are not Apple-based, and likely not tech-based. After nearly a quarter century working on just Apple products and projects, it will be good for him to flex his design muscle again. That's not to say that Ive will be excluded from Apple projects going forward. Cook said that Apple will engage Ive's firm on future projects, though did not go into detail.
There is no doubt that Apple would not be where it is today if it weren't for the combined efforts of Jobs and Ive. In fact, there is a good chance the company would not have survived the 90s without the products that these two brought to market. Some did not stand the test of time, while others are still considered top-notch designs. The iMac series, for example, is viewed as some of the silliest products the company has ever released. From the fruit-colored bubbles to the swivel desk lamp looking computer, the iMac has always been the joke of the industry. On the other hand, the early iPhones, especially the iPhone 4, the iPod, and the iPad, have all led the industry in their designs, for better or worse.
The problem is that the company's designs have stalled in the last few years. While the iPhone X might have introduced the notch design that many others have emulated, the phone's overall design was not a significant departure from the past decade. The iPad and iPad Pro have essentially remained unchanged for nearly a decade. The likelihood is that Jony Ive has been in a design rut because he has not been able to explore additional projects. Outside of the iterative product projects, his only real design flex has been Apple Park, the company's spaceship campus.
Hopefully, the introduction of new design ideas will energize Apple's product development teams. With someone else heading up the design efforts, perhaps Apple will be able to join the rest of the mobile industry in implementing standards, such as developer-enabled NFC, USB-C, and more. The phones might return to their origins of being ergonomic. We might even see a computer that doesn't look like a giant cheese grater. Only time will tell, however.