Every company experiences a key employee leaving for the proverbial greener pasture.
Boards have been known to kick CEOs to the curb. Think GE’s announcement last year that it was parting ways with John Flannery with the obligatory “we thank John for his significant contributions and long service to GE,” code for he didn’t perform as advertised.
Other times, a valued employee exits, causing the company to scramble in communicating a message to the market that goes something along the lines of, “We’re going to be just fine.”
How often does a valued employee leave a company in which everyone is singing Kumbaya? And oh by the way, when you start your own company, count us in as your first client.
That’s exactly what happened to Jony Ive with Apple itself flinging out an official news release. I can’t recall seeing a news release quite like the one below.
Of course, there’s more to this release than helping Mr. Ive strike out on his own. When Ive shared his plans with Tim Cook, a certain amount of heartburn ensued. Apple has created one of the most valuable brands on the planet. What’s the brand’s calling card? Right. Design. And the world recognizes Ive as the genius behind Apple’s design.
To prevent its stock from cratering and people suggesting the end of an era, Apple needed to communicate two messages. First, assure the market that Ive is not leaving in a huff and he’ll continue to sprinkle his pixie dust on Apple products. Hence, the quote from Cook that leaves nothing to interpretation:
“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.”
Two, the company needed to remind the market that other talented individuals who remain at Apple also have a say in the design of Apple products.
June 27, 2019
Jony Ive to form independent design company with Apple as client
Cupertino, California — Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple.
“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,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “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.”
Design team leaders Evans Hankey, vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, vice president of Human Interface Design, will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. Both Dye and Hankey have played key leadership roles on Apple’s design team for many years. Williams has led the development of Apple Watch since its inception and will spend more of his time working with the design team in their studio.
“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. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history,” said Ive. “The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, 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.”
Apple’s design team, recognized with countless design awards, brings together creatives from around the world representing multiple disciplines, including user interface, industrial design, graphic and font design, haptics and sound design.