Apple’s outgoing design chief not defecting to Jony Ive, report says

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Evans Hankey, VP of Industrial Design (left), and Alan Dye, VP of Human Interface Design (right)

Apple announced last month that Evans Hankey, the company’s vice president of industrial design, was leaving the company. According to a report by Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, Hankey doesn’t plan to jump ship for LoveFrom, its predecessor and the longtime design company of Apple hardware design chief Sir Jony Ive.

I founded LoveFrom after leaving Apple in 2019. He is credited with formulating the design language for much of the company’s current product portfolio.

Hankey, meanwhile, is leaving the company after about 20 years in total, but only three years trying to replace Ive. That probably wasn’t even enough time for her to see an Apple product from concept to release. Hankey also leaves behind an uncertain succession for her role.

Gurman noted that Apple doesn’t have much choice when it comes to appointing a new design chief. He named senior industrial designer Richard Howarth and software design manager Alan Dye as possible replacements at the company.

Those close to the design department consider Howarth, who briefly served as head of industrial design at Apple between 2015 and 2017, as the only logical choice to replace Hankey.

Gurman said Apple could also look outside the company for Hankey’s replacement, but the iPhone maker has historically struggled to induct executives from rival companies into leadership positions.

“It would have to be someone inside,” a longtime member of Apple’s design group told Gurman. According to this anonymous designer, replacing Hankey with someone from outside Apple would be the “death of the team”.

Apple’s hardware design department has seen a lot of turnover in recent years – which isn’t good, given that product design choices are made many years in advance.

15 core members of Apple’s Ive-era design team left the company after the legendary hardware manager was demoted to work part-time at the company in 2015. Many of them have ended up joining Ive at LoveFrom. In the 15 years up to this point, however, only two members of the design team had left Apple.

However, the design team’s problems started long before I left the company. According to people with knowledge of the developments, the closer involvement of Apple’s operations department in the design team’s work has caused its focus to shift from aesthetics and purely cosmetic features to cost.

“The strength of the team was that we were a core group bound together by the incredible environment that existed and the things that we could do in a way that was quite unconventional for a large company,” the longtime band member said.

“It was a special team. It wasn’t easy after Steve died — things started to get a lot more complicated. There were more outside pressures and distractions.

Much of Apple’s design philosophy thus far had likely already been developed during Ive’s tenure. Now the tech giant must find a new Ive-esque visionary to usher in a new era in the business.

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