Apple Inc.'s chief designer Jony Ive is leaving after decades at the iPhone maker to form an independent company — with Apple as one of its primary clients.
Ive is responsible for the look of the company's most iconic products. LoveFrom, his new firm, will continue to work with Apple on projects, he said in an interview with the Financial Times.
"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," Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a statement.
Apple shares slipped less than 1% in extended trading. The stock closed at $199.74 in New York.
"Ive is leaving a hole in the company and is clearly irreplaceable as he has been one of the most important figures at Apple throughout the past few decades," Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note to analysts. "While this is a bit if a shocker to Apple and its investors we are not overly concerned as Ive will continue to work closely with Cook & Co."
Ive began leading Apple's design team in 1996, before Apple co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company as it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Over the past two decades, Ive's designs, from the original iMac desktop computer in 1998 to the first iPod in 2001 and the iPad in 2010, have been a significant factor in Apple's growth. In 2012, a year after becoming CEO, Cook put Ive in charge of software design as well.
Ive will be replaced by existing Apple designers. 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, the company said.
Dye and Hankey have played key leadership roles on Apple's design team for many years. They were among executives who took over day-to-day management of the team when Ive stepped away to focus on the creation of company's new headquarters in Cupertino, California.
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, the company added.
Separately, Apple said Sabih Khan, a 24-year company veteran, will be senior vice president of operations. In recent years, Khan has inherited more responsibility for global supply chain operations that churn out hundreds of millions of devices per year—tasks once handled by Williams. Khan runs day-to-day manufacturing of the iPhone, as well as other devices, and his team has gotten involved increasingly early in the design process.