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Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive left the iPhone maker burnt out and tired in the wake of CEO Tim Cook’s numerous structural changes, an article based on a book about Apple’s transformation claims, in which the movie “Yesterday” became part of Ive’s announcement to leave for his design team.
Jony Ive left Apple in 2019, after nearly three decades of working for the technology giant on many of its major products. The departure was a shock exit, but one that was inevitable due to a change in the culture of the company.
In a New York Times article based on the Tripp Mickle book “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul,” Ive resigned after years of frustration when I saw the company migrate from a design-centric device to one that was more utilitarian.
The account begins by emphasizing the relationship between Ive and former CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, and describes the creation of the iconic iMac. When Ive’s presence was at times considered a relief to Jobs, the two famously worked closely together, with Jobs constantly visiting the company’s design studio.
With the introduction of Cook and Jobs’ death, Ive’s experience in the company had changed significantly. Cook apparently showed lower interest in design than Jobs, with far fewer studio visits during the creation of the Apple Watch.
While changing the focus of the Apple Watch from fashion to fitness, I have reportedly approached Cook about being tired and intending to retire from the company. Arguments with colleagues about the promotion and management of hundreds of employees instead of the smaller 20-person design team also drained Ive significantly.
Fears that Ive’s departure would affect the stock price led Cook to reduce Ive’s responsibilities and make him chief design officer. At the time, very few at Apple apparently knew of Ive’s frustration and burnout.
The changes apparently also led to me working differently and switching from almost daily product reviews to sometimes not judging designs at all for a few weeks.
For the 10-year anniversary iPhone, Ive called software designers together for a product review at San Francisco’s social club, The Battery. After failing to apologize for coming almost three hours late, I reviewed the transcripts and provided feedback, but I made no final decisions at the time.
While Ive apparently been absent, Cook continued to move the company in a new direction, including bringing in former Boeing CFO James Bell as company director to replace marketing employee Mickey Drexler. I have not supported the change and commented “He is yet another of those accountants” to a colleague.
Cook’s opportunity for the finance department to have more to say also annoyed Ive, who moved on to auditing external contractors.
About Ive’s decision to leave, the article talks about an evening in June 2019, where Ive gathered her design teams for a theater for a private screening of “Yesterday”. The choice of film was appropriate as it was a “two-hour exploration of the eternal conflict between art and commerce,” the article states.
After the anticipatory film, Ive told his teams “Art needs the right space and support to grow. When you’re really big, it’s especially important.”
A day later, design teams were asked to clear their calendars for a meeting with Ive, who told them that with the completion of the new building, his time in the company was over. Ive praised the team and encouraged them to preserve Apple’s identity, as well as assure them that he would continue to work as a consultant through his design firm LoveFrom.
Since Ive’s departure and receipt of a CEO-worthy exit package worth more than $ 100 million, design at Apple has apparently taken a back seat to features and performance. Designers said the lack of Ive led to more collaboration with colleagues working in engineering than before, but at the same time they are facing more cost pressures over their work.