Even though his soothing voice still fills Apple's product ads, the company's design chief, Jony Ive, may not actually be working on consumer products any longer. This speculation comes from pundits who believe Ive has turned to bigger things. Literally.
Jason Snell, who runs his blog Six Colors, was recently a guest in well-known Apple pundit John Gruber's podcast "The Talk Show," where he suggested that Jony Ive isn't, and indeed hasn't, been designing products like the new MacBook Pro or the iPhone 7. "I've heard that he has lately been checked out or not as directly involved with product design and that he's been largely focused on architecture," Snell said on the podcast, suggesting that Jony Ive is instead be working on the Apple Campus 2 project and new store designs with Angela Ahrendts. Apple Campus 2 is the company's new "spaceship" campus that's currently under construction.
Is Jony Ive winding down atApple?
I suppose it would be weird if Jony Ive didn't have a hand in the company's largest physical design move ever — he very much does — but it does seem odd that Ive has stepped away from products. He's well known for his design work and indeed has won various awards and is credited on hundreds of patents.
Perhaps he's looking for inspiration elsewhere and is bored with product work. This is purely speculation, but I wonder if this might be one of the reasons we haven't seen a major change in iPhone design since the iPhone 6 was launched. The podcast says he may have been the one who suggested Apple make the gold Apple Watch, despite a lack of support from other executives inside the company who thought it wasn't a good idea. Maybe he wants to create more exclusive products that aren't made for mass consumption? We're talking about a guy who designed an aluminum desk for a (RED) auction that Sotheby's sold for $1.685 million, after all.
The podcast doesn't give a definitive answer to Ive's future and Snell admits that he "doesn't know anybody that has insight to [the situation.]" Gruber said folks inside Apple "have the impression" that Ive has "either eased into a very different role or he's either fading away." The evidence for that is the recent $200 book that Apple launched, which is a celebration of product design. Is it possible this is a celebration of the final products Ive created, too? Apple hasn't said, but it's starting to sound very plausible. Take a listen to the podcast where Snell and Gruber dive deeper into the discussion.