After Jony Ive's departure, Apple's design philosophy is slowly changing

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 3
Jony Ive served as an integral part of Apple's industrial design team for nearly three decades. After his departure, Apple's design philosophy is in flux, with some of Ive's notable design influences being phased out.




Jony Ive has been gone from Apple for nearly three years, and it's now clear that his direct influence is waning -- at least in part. here's what changed since Apple's biggest design influence has left.

Ive's start at Apple

Ive joined up with Apple in 1992 after serving as a design consultant for the company while he was part of a London-based design firm Tangerine. Many of his early product designs were somewhat unmemorable, including the early Newton MessagePad designs before the radical shift to the 2000 series.

However, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Ive was promoted to senior vice president of Industrial Design. It was then when Ive began to have significant influence over the products Apple put out, given that Jobs provided Ive free rein to explore ideas.

Ive's fingerprints are all over Apple's most iconic devices, including the candy-colored G3 iMacs, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone.

However, not all of Ive's designs have been hits. He had been known to prioritize aesthetics over practicality, leading to such devices as the third-generation buttonless iPod Shuffle, the hockey-puck mouse, and the Magic Mouse 2 with its strange charging port location.




Ive's influence often led to products that looked nice -- or at the very least, they looked interesting. But that, sometimes, came at a cost.

The Tim Cook era, and Ive's departure

After Tim Cook stepped in as Apple's CEO, Ive's experience at the company had considerably changed. Cook reportedly took a more hands-off approach to design than Jobs.

The two did not share the same bond that Ive and Jobs did, with Cook reportedly spending less time interfacing with Apple's design team.

In 2015, Ive was promoted to Chief Design Officer, a leadership position that was notably more hands-off than his previous one.

In addition to feeling creatively stifled, Ive was reported to suffer burnout after managing teams of hundreds rather than the 20-person design team of earlier eras.

So, in 2019, Ive called his team together to inform them that, after 27 years, his time at Apple was ending.

He received an exit package valued at more than $100 million, and Evans Hankey and Alan Dye would split Ive's former duties.

Hankey and Dye take over

After Ive's departure, Apple's design team got a pair of new leaders with Evans Hankey, and Alan Dye. Neither are new to Apple, and both were effectively design leaders when Ive stepped away in 2015, to work on Apple Stores.

They both relinquished their leadership roles on Ive's return in 2017, but continued in the design team.

Evans Hankey (left) and Alan Dye in Apple Park. Source: Wallpaper magazine
Evans Hankey (left) and Alan Dye in Apple Park. Source: Wallpaper magazine


Consequently, they are both steeped in Apple's design history, and both originally joined in 2006. Dye was previously a designer for retailer Kate Spade, and Ogilvy and Mather's Brand Integration Group.

With Apple, he's particularly known for his work on the Apple Watch. He was on that project from its very first ideas, concentrating on its software, and after Ive's final departure, took on the role of Vice President of Human Interface Design.

Evans Hankey, who studied industrial and product design at Stanford University, is more on the hardware design side at Apple. She's become Apple's Vice President of Industrial Design.

Consequently, it's true that the pair worked closely with Ive during his time at Apple. It's also clear that some of the design team's priorities have shifted.

Evolution or revolution?

Part of that may be down to how Apple's team may have grown, and has certainly moved to Apple Park. Ive had always maintained that designers need to be working right next to engineers, and Hankey and Dye worked to continue that with the move.

"We knew very much that this was a massive opportunity, but we also knew that it also had to be more than just adjacencies," said Hankey in 2021. "We got to where we were as a team because of our cultures and our processes."

"It was a challenge, not an automatic win," she continued. "It really took a lot of time to try new things out and be a little bit outside our comfort zones."

A shift in design theory

While many of Ive's influences are still seen across Apple's lineup today, some subtle changes have begun to take place.

For example, Apple's MacBook lineup has seen several changes since Ive's departure. Gone is the butterfly keyboard, which was introduced in 2015 and implemented to make MacBooks thinner and lighter. Unfortunately, it also was notorious for failing.

So, in 2020, Apple swapped out the design in favor of a scissor-switch mechanism.

The MacBook Pro no longer features its Touch Bar, either. Debuting in 2016 on the fourth-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Touch Bar replaced the MacBook Pro's function keys.




It added touch-based capabilities to Mac apps and was supported by all native Mac apps and several prominent third-party apps. However, while interesting and now being adopted by Windows hardware vendors at least in part, the Touch Bar was seen as a gimmick rather than a particularly practical feature and was phased out in 2021.

While the MacBook lineup lost some of the features introduced under Ive, it gained a few things after his departure. The new 14-inch MacBook Pro released in 2021 ditched its Thunderbolt-only design to incorporate an SD card slot and an HDMI slot. The additions were widely praised by creative professionals who hated to rely on multiple adapters to do creative tasks.

Other products have seen some overhauls as well. For instance, the Apple TV remote has been redesigned to be more intuitive to use. This was a welcome change, as the previous design was widely seen to be clunky and difficult to use, even after the addition of a ring to help the hand find its way.




Even the iPhone has seen significant design changes, with the iPhone 12 and onward ditching curved edges for a thicker, more damage-resistant bumper.

And, the Mac Studio is Apple's most ambitious Mac design in years. Where the Apple Silicon iMac still feels Ive-ian, the Mac Studio embraces a larger size that the Mac mini, which it needs for performance.

It's impossible to know if Ive's departure had actually spurred these changes or if it would've been the natural progression of Apple's product design. Given the evolution of the MacBook Pro after Ive's departure, and the Mac Studio as a whole, it feels like more of the former than the latter.

However, what is clear is that Apple's design philosophy is changing, Ive or not. The company seems more likely to listen to customer feedback, and note that it is doing so, with Apple specifically saying that it has implemented changes being directly related to users' concerns for the first time in years.

It's unlikely that Ive's influence will ever disappear entirely from the company. After all, he'd been a driving force in their design department for nearly three decades. Once you start a boulder rolling down a hill, it's hard to stop.

And yet, new designers will bring new ideas. Arguably, they have already.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,223member
    Two areas that IMO are solid signs that Apple's design philosophy has changed. The newer MacBooks with lots of different ports. Ive was the one who made the MacBook with just one, and other models with only one kind. The other place is the Mac Studio. Ive would never have put ports on the front. These are good changes in philosophy. Ive was so focussed on design that very often functionality took a back seat and the user, the customer, suffered.
    edited June 3 muthuk_vanalingamtzterrilkruppleavingthebiggviclauyycdewmetundraboymacxpressneo-techjony0
  • Reply 2 of 44
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,047member
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    lkruppflyingdpdanoxiqatedowatto_cobraneo-techjony0
  • Reply 3 of 44
    zimmermannzimmermann Posts: 306member
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    Had the designers put a small line on the Mac suggesting it was two stacked Mac mini’s it would have looked better. Now it is a clunky big box. 
    crowleywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 44
    glhglh Posts: 12member
    The 12" MacBook was a beautiful machine -- I still use mine (2017) and find it adequate for everything I do, though I use a 16" MBP (intel) on my desk because of its bigger screen. I have never had trouble with the butterfly keyboard and have no trouble typing on it. The MacBook was Ive's masterpiece, and as soon as he left it was discontinued. Very sad. There's something especially satisfying to using such an esthetically beautiful computer.
    dewmeMisterKitwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 44
    macbootxmacbootx Posts: 58member
    I don’t know how much the 2021 MacBook Pro’s got LoveFrom Ive (pardon my bad pun), if any, but they are the best portables Apple had designed in 20 years IMHO.
    edited June 3 watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 44
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,223member
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    The Studio is engineering, not form driven. The chip needed a mongo heat sink and there was no way to do that without ending up with that form. Personally I like it. It’s a clean design that has ports on the front and a fan that’s quiet. 
    tdknoxsconosciutoviclauyycdarkvadermacxpresswatto_cobraAlex1Nlolliverjony0
  • Reply 7 of 44
    uraharaurahara Posts: 665member
    DAalseth said:
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    The Studio is engineering, not form driven. The chip needed a mongo heat sink and there was no way to do that without ending up with that form. Personally I like it. It’s a clean design that has ports on the front and a fan that’s quiet. 
    Your words sound like product design can be only engineering driven and never (even partially) as a form driven.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 44
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,343member
    There have been numerous design fails over the years IMO but that is normal to an extent.

    What's irks me in particular is the design failures that were obvious to most but signed off on nevertheless. 

    The iPhone 6 battery fiasco had a lot to do with the battery being skimpy in the first place. 

    The butterfly keyboard wouldn't have been as problematic if they had made it spillproof from the outset. 

    The transition to USB-C wasn't ever a 'transition' . It was wholesale switch in one foul swoop. 

    In those three cases it was the users who were forced to swallow the bitter pills. And there were pills aplenty.

    No docks in the box to ease the move to USB-C. A keyboard that was 'good', until it wasn't. Something that could literally be fine one day and malfunctioning the next and that required a crazy amount of work/cost to switch out.

    A TouchBar that added hundreds of dollars to the cost of a (already expensive) machine and became difficult to avoid.

    So much minute attention to detail on some things but things like the sharp pointy edges on the indent for screen aperture were never rounded off. 

    If you go back further then the one-port MacBook was an epic fail. 

    The chin on the iMac should be long gone. Only now are bezels on some products really getting smaller. 

    The Apple TV silver remote was awful. 

    Cable design (and resilience) has been a major gripe of mine. Weak, with little stress support and no grip at all. And white? Only white?... 

    I never really understood the 360ºC design of the HomePod on a cabled device that would almost always not be positioned centrally. 

    Port placement has been something else that I hated. After waiting so long for front facing ports, they were eliminated in short order. 

    There was a lot that was very questionable (Dalmatian, Flower Power and sunflower iMacs at the top of the list). A lot to like too, and my particular favourite, and often overlooked, design element was the 'arse' on the original iMac. It was simply perfect! 

    The curves on the Pismo laptops were Ferrari sexy.  The pop-out batteries on some laptops. Most trackpads. Most hinge mechanisms. Etc. 


    muthuk_vanalingamMrBunsideviclauyyc
  • Reply 9 of 44
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,395member
    This article is really missing the point. It’s not that design is changing. At least not in terms of aesthetic. In fact, the 24 inch m1 iMac, which was suppposed to be this huge departure is actually nearly identical to the old iMac at a glance if you made the bezels black. Deleting a brandmark and a different paint job aren’t really a design departure, but they are baffling choices. 

    Even the latest Mac studio is basically just a tall Mac mini with some ports on the front. 

    What has changed really isn’t change in design, but rather the natural progression of pursuing radical design. I’ve pushed things design-wise. Really tried to bring Apple to its potential as a design and tech leader. In thst pursuit, there are bound to be failures or at least some elements that don’t stick. 

    Pursuing thinness was one of his hallmarks. It’s what gave us the iPhone and iPad profiles. Nothing looked like that before. Now, they are everywhere. It’s what gave us the MacBook Air - a phenomenon when it was unveiled. It gave us increasingly more svelte iMacs and a mini Mac. 

    It also gave us the nicest looking notebook design in history - the 2016 MacBook Pro. 

    Unfortunately, that design also needed some staple components to be reinvented as was also heavily dependent upon the reliability of Intels roadmap. Intel which failed and so we had a laptop that was too small for its thermal requirements, had a new and unproven keyboard (an engineering issue and poor boardroom decision that Cook should not have signed off on if it was heavily vetted first), a Touch Bar that was nice, but had zero support from the apple software team, a lesser battery (bad performance decision), and compromised on the type of Ram just to meet an aesthetic. Basically apples engineering and hardware partners were not ready for such a forward looking design. That’s not the design guys fault. That’s a management failure. On cook more than Ive. 

    Also a boardroom failure: not going all in on USB C from the jump. The MacBook Pro heralded a new era of ultrafast usb c thunderbolt ports where every port could do everything, including charging. Genius. But the problem was none of the other products moved there. So instead of a wave of change (and susequent market evolution), we had an outlier banished to a remote island of shame. Crazy. 

    That left Apple with two choices. Either fix it by going all thunderbolt everywhere, or return to the path of least resistance to a more PC like smattering of various ports. The latter was chosen and it works out. 

    The new studio display, lauded for its aesthetic is decidedly an Ive-esque design. And that’s a fantastic thing. It looks so good people want it despite the price, hardware team implementing a poor choice of webcam snd the display being 8 year old tech. 

    So design in terms of aesthetic isn’t really changing at all. And design in terms of function is 50/50. We had a MacBook Pro with issues. Those have been resolved with a chunkier laptop enclosure. But then we’ve also received a new monitor with an inexplicably poor webcam, an iMac that has to plop the power supply on the floor and has the headphones sticking out of the side. 

    What is changing is an Apple that now values safe decisions over innovative ones. That’s not saying Apple isn’t innovative. The M series SOCs are incredibly innovative. 

    So Apple is still innovative, but it wants to follow the paths of least resistance instead of blazing new trails - in terms of everything but the new SOCS - they are a saving Grace at this moment. 

    In summary, the old apple design with Ive was a trailblazer  that inevitably hit snags along the way and had to pivot. 

    The new Apple design without Ive follows well worn paths and still hits some snags along the way. 

    Still good stuff, but not the rock stars as before. 

    So glad we have the M series SOCs to add some shine back to the Mac. 

    And at the end of this long post, looking forward to WWDC with hope that some sweet (even innovative?) design is revealed next week. Apple has some of the best designers and technical people in the world. But as soon as the anti-Ive sentiment goes away, the better. Get back to the Ive philosophy, but learn from mistakes and get things before committing to production. 
    nubusseanjbloggerblogiqatedowatto_cobrah2pAlex1N
  • Reply 10 of 44
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,692member
    ...

    In summary, the old apple design with Ive was a trailblazer  that inevitably hit snags along the way and had to pivot. 

    The new Apple design without Ive follows well worn paths and still hits some snags along the way. 

    Still good stuff, but not the rock stars as before. 

    So glad we have the M series SOCs to add some shine back to the Mac. 

    And at the end of this long post, looking forward to WWDC with hope that some sweet (even innovative?) design is revealed next week. Apple has some of the best designers and technical people in the world. But as soon as the anti-Ive sentiment goes away, the better. Get back to the Ive philosophy, but learn from mistakes and get things before committing to production. 
    I agree that much of the anti-Ive sentiment is misplaced and undeserved. On the other hand, I think he did his best work under Jobs who was probably the only person who had the ability to really curb the "excesses" — i.e., the moments when the design swung a bit too far in the direction of "form". On the third hand, sometimes you probably need the excesses to really see how far you can push certain ideas.

    The one area where I think Ive was really in over his head was in software UI design, and hopefully Apple will put that legacy behind them as quickly as possible.
    seanjwatto_cobramichelb76
  • Reply 11 of 44
    I, for one, was relieved when Ive left Apple. His long-held philosophy of putting form over function was crippling the effectiveness of Apple's products. During his cheap-looking color-drenched plastics phase, he produced some of the ugliest products in Apple's history. As an art major in college, I was taught by a few of my professors that being able to verbally justify your work was more important than the work itself. I think Ive used that erroneous logic to sell his designs to Jobs, and because of their tight relationship, Jobs was the only one who needed to be sold. 
    firelock9secondkox2dewmewatto_cobrah2p
  • Reply 12 of 44
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,223member
    urahara said:
    DAalseth said:
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    The Studio is engineering, not form driven. The chip needed a mongo heat sink and there was no way to do that without ending up with that form. Personally I like it. It’s a clean design that has ports on the front and a fan that’s quiet. 
    Your words sound like product design can be only engineering driven and never (even partially) as a form driven.
    It has to be a balance but Ive’s designs were too much form over function. I’m very glad to see Apple moving back the other way. As far as the Studio, personally I like the simple clean lines. 
    9secondkox2watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingammaltz
  • Reply 13 of 44
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,063member
    Even without Ive, Apple still can't build an acceptable mouse.
    DAalsethfirelocknubus9secondkox2muthuk_vanalingamAlex1N
  • Reply 14 of 44
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,182member
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    And no MagSafe on the new monitor two steps forward one step back.

    The new 24” iMac is very nice however.
    edited June 3 watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 15 of 44
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,781member
    There is no such things as perfectly designed product. Design is constantly changing landscape. When you look at current Apple products portfolio like MAC line or iPhone or iPad or Earpods, etc.; From Steve/Ive era, they have come long way to become a good design, near perfection of esthetic, functionality and usability.
    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 44
    sconosciutosconosciuto Posts: 210member
    The new iMac looks great IMHO, and as the article states, feels very Ivy-ian. Several products now balance usability and design better.
    However the Mac Studio looks ugly and the designers didn't have the balls to move beyond stacking two Minis together; a wasted opportunity.
    I hope the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro will show a more ambitious design.

    • The Mac Studio is for working professionals, it's not a souped-up email-and-Zoom home office computer that's supposed to impress visitors if they happen to glance at your desk. That's not to say it's OK to be ugly, which I don't think the MS is. I'm not sure what other form factor would have worked or been practical other than the current one. It's a headless computer that needs to dissipate efficiently what little heat it generates, what form factor would you have liked to see other than a tall Mac Mini?
    • It echoes the design of the Mac Mini, of which it is clearly an extension. So it makes sense from the design/manufacturing/marketing perspectives to base it on the Mac Mini design.
    • Apple has finally made it clear they are listening to pro users, at least on the hardware side. In fact it's really encouraging that they have stopped digging in on  things like the Touch Bar, the butterfly keyboard, and the lack of ports. It really was starting to feel like Apple was too stubborn to admit clear errors *coughIvecough* Now when it comes to their software...
    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingamAlex1N
  • Reply 17 of 44
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 325member
    The new MacBook Pros look like the clearest departure from Ive. They are all about function over form, heavier and clunkier-looking than recent Intel MBPs, with a design that's pictured in the dictionary next to the word "generic." Not bad, per se, just totally meh. 
    edited June 3 dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 44
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 890member
    Ive was fine years ago.  But somewhere around 2003 he just stopped trying. 

    Apple's best ever laptop design was the FireWire PowerBook G3.  Quick-remove battery, an optical/floppy drive bay that could be used for a second battery (and if you did put two batteries in, you could change a battery while you were on battery power, no need to ever be plugged in if you didn't want to be).  And it was black.

    Today's MacBooks are completely uninspired.  After years of nothing but thinner rectangles, at least they're finally getting thicker again, but they're still uninspired rectangles, they still have batteries that are a PITA to change, and the thin fetish got us soldered RAM and storage too.  Oh, and that stupid notch.

    The iMac G4 was an amazing design.  The iMac G5 and everything after have been uninspired.

    So yeah.  Ive burned out around 20 years ago, didn't have the good sense to quit, and Jobs/Cook didn't have the good sense to fire him.
    avon b7
  • Reply 19 of 44
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 890member
    Even without Ive, Apple still can't build an acceptable mouse.

    I like the current mouse.  Sure, I wish it had a USB port instead of the idiotic Lightning port, and I wish that port was on the end so you could charge it while using it, but as long as it's charged it's the best mouse on the market today.
    9secondkox2jony0
  • Reply 20 of 44
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 325member
    darkvader said:
    Jobs/Cook didn't have the good sense to fire him.
    Yeah, for sure... Steve was well-known for surrounding himself with burnouts who just stopped trying for years.

    Hey, I think there's a Lenova Yoga laptop with your name on it. 
    9secondkox2dewmewatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
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