Sir Jony Ive, the in-house designer at Apple for nearly three decades, has announced he is leaving the company to found his own - but that his first client will be his former paymaster.

Sir Jony Ive joined Apple in 1992 from his former design agency Tangerine after having worked with the company to design its PowerBook laptops. Struggles with the design of the second-generation Newton and MessagePad personal digital assistants - product lines which presaged the growth of the smartphone but which would soon be dropped by Apple - nearly led to his early exit, but a promotion to lead the company's industrial design team and work on the iMac convinced him to stay. Since then, Ive has been behind the look and feel of some of the company's most iconic products including the iPod and iPhone, with much of his inspiration coming from the work of Braun designer Dieter Rams. Ive's designs have been criticised, however, for prioritising form over function and, in the words of Motherboard's Jason Koebler, leaving 'a legacy of pushing its products toward disposability and unrepairability.'

Now, Ive is moving on from the company to found his own design agency, LoveFrom - and its first client will be, to nobody's surprise, Apple. 'After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer,' claims Ive. 'Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history. The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans [Hankey], Alan [Dye] and Jeff [Williams], who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.'

'Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park, where recently he has been putting so much of his energy and care,' adds Apple chief executive Tim Cook. 'Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built. After so many years working closely together, I’m happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony long into the future.'

Ive's departure after so long as the driving force behind Apple's designs, coupled with a reshuffle that will see its design division led by committee rather than filling Ive's shoes directly, has investors rattled: Its value took a plunge on the announcement, and while it has settled down 0.91 percent in pre-market trading the company's size means that a drop of less than a full percent has wiped around $8.4 billion from its market cap.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04