Apple's vice president of product design leaving in February

in General Discussion

Tang Tan, Apple's vice president of product design, is leaving the company in February, marking another high-level departure in recent history.

Apple's vice president of product design leaving in February
Apple's vice president of product design leaving in February

Sources in the company say that the departure is a blow to the company. Tang was responsible for making critical decisions about many of Apple's products and had substantial influence over the design of iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods products.

Tan works directly under John Ternus, senior vice president of hardware engineering.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is reshuffling Tan's duties to handle the transition. Those who worked alongside Tan will have expanded roles, including Richard Dinh, Tan's top lieutenant and head of iPhone product design. Hardware engineer executive Kate Bergeron will take over the design of the Apple Watch.

Tan's departure marks the second learned of this week. On Wednesday, news broke that Steve Hotelling, an Apple executive responsible for innovative technologies used in iPhone, iPad, and even Apple Vision Pro, is retiring from Apple.

Read on AppleInsider



  • Reply 1 of 4
    It’s difficult to know how to feel about something like this when we know so little about the person, their actual contributions, or the reason for the departure. 

    For some, it’s a big hit. Some of the Apple Silicon team were geniuses and when they left, it took some serious steam out of M2 and took a while for Apple to regain that lost momentum. 

    For others, the impact is lightly felt if at all. 

    Sometimes, someone’s best work is behind them. They may have contributed tremendously in the past, but have just run out of juice. Sometimes a change of pace and place allows them to recharge and get the mojo back. Other times not so much. 

    One person can make or break even a ginormous corporation while another person’s presence or absence is barely felt. It can be difficult to get a bead on, regardless of position or title. Interestingly, the designs of iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods have all been somewhat static and lacking in meaningful progression. 

    I think the industry as a whole is at such a place now where the truly skilled and visionary engineers and designers are fairly interchangeable amongst the tech companies and the basics of financial compensation, alignment of values, and workplace enjoyment factor very highly. 

    While Apple likely does very well in all three of those, some things can grate. The super open collaboration can stifle those who take longer to fully vet and process their thoughts, while other, Norse socially inclined folks feel their needs are met. No doubt this is a boon for those who have less complex ideas to share, while those with more grandiose vision need more time to distill it in a digestible way for others to fully grasp. 

    If he wasn’t the boss, I don’t think even Jobs would fit in at today’s Apple - though that would be a massive loss. 

    Time will tell how this one goes. Wish him well. 

    edited December 2023 Anilu_777badmonkcommand_ftokyojimuAlex1Ndaven
  • Reply 2 of 4
    DracoDraco Posts: 31member
    This departure won't have much effect. Key product decisions at Apple are made by large teams of people reviewing reams of data around new technologies being considered for deployment. 

    At some point you accumulate so much wealth that it's not worth the daily grind anymore. I suspect that was the case with Tang, who would have to be worth at least $10M if he managed his money to any reasonable extent. 
  • Reply 3 of 4
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,267moderator
    It’s difficult to know how to feel about something like this when we know so little about the person, their actual contributions, or the reason for the departure. 
    He's listed on over 270 of Apple's patents here:

    It looks like Apple's the only company he's ever worked at. On LinkedIn, it says he graduated in 1999 and is named on Apple's patents as early as 2000. He finished high school in 1993, likely aged 17-18, so he'd be 47-48 years old now and worked at Apple for 23-24 years.

    It says here he's been VP of design for 13 years:

    That's a long time to be at a company, Jon Ternus has been there around 22 years and Tim Cook 25 years. After 15 iPhones, there's not much left to do and he's made enough to retire comfortably.

    He had a pretty lucky break to start at Apple just after college and stay there his entire career. He's at the same level as Kevin Lynch:

    Given how important design is to Apple, I imagine any product design leaders would be quite impactful. Evans Hankey left last year too. It will be interesting to see where iPhone design goes from here and how much different iPhone 20 will be from iPhone 15. They've pretty much peaked every aspect of the design, except the battery.
    edited December 2023 Alex1Nwatto_cobrabyronl
  • Reply 4 of 4
    thttht Posts: 5,350member
    Apple has a training program to level out the ups and downs of retirements, departures and new people/positions. They aren't a 100 person startup. It's like 20,000 corporate employees. This news articles about people leaving Apple is basically a light version of "Apple is doomed".

    There's a bit of "oh no, this guys brought Apple all this success, what are they going to do without him?!" in these articles. What could happen is that the new person and new structure may bring new, better and more interesting designs and products. That's just as much a possibility as no new interesting products. Always pluses and minuses.
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