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Why Apple can’t find the next legendary designer?

The key to the iPhone’s success over the years has been innovation, but this year’s iPhone 14 seems to be a case of “toothpaste”. The new phone is not only a modest upgrade but also leaves the latest features to the more expensive Pro models.

Behind this, Apple has been unable to find a design director like legendary designer Jony Ive. Attrition has reportedly hampered Apple’s efforts to replace the head of product design, leaving the company’s famed design team without a helmsman. For Apple, the design team is the key to the company’s long-term success.

▲ Cook and Apple’s legendary designer Ivey

Difficult to find a successor
Since Ivey’s departure in 2019, his successor at the helm of hardware design has lasted only three years. Now, with Apple’s design division still in Ivey’s shadow, it needs a new leader but lacks an obvious candidate. Last year, more than three-quarters of Apple’s nearly $400 billion in revenue came from hardware devices, yet the fate of the division hangs in the balance.

Evans Hankey, who has held the position of director of industrial design since Ivey’s departure, informed Apple last month that she was leaving. Although Hankey has been with the company for about 20 years, her relatively short time as head of the industrial design team has made it difficult for her to establish a clear vision for new products. Apple also lacks a clear succession plan, which is a major problem for a company that sells high-priced products largely on looks.

▲ Apple industrial design director Hankey (left) resigned

In some ways, Apple’s design department has been in a state of flux since the death of Steve Jobs more than a decade ago, people familiar with the matter said. The partnership Jobs forged with Ivey helped establish the clean, simple aesthetic that remains a hallmark of the tech giant today. But Apple’s growing focus on cost and other distractions have created new difficulties for Apple’s design department, people familiar with the matter say.

15 Designers Have Left
In the past few years, Apple’s design team has lost most of the senior designers who worked under Ivey, many of them to Ivey’s new company, LoveFrom, which people familiar with the matter say has made it more difficult for Apple to find a successor to Hankey. An Apple spokesman would not comment.

Apple’s design brain drain began after Ivey began his part-time role as chief design officer, around the time of the Apple Apple Watch’s launch in 2015. That year, Ivey’s longtime deputy Danny Coster jumped ship for sports camera company GoPro, and two years later, his other senior deputy Christopher Stringer left to found high-end speaker maker Syng.

▲ Ivey’s company poaches a number of Apple designers

In early 2019, another group of Apple designers left the company. Apple’s leading designers Rico Zorkendorfer, Julian Hoenig, Miklu Silvanto and Daniele De Iuliis left. In June of that year, Apple announced that Ivey would be leaving to create love from Design Consulting, working with brands such as Ferrari, Audemars Piguet, and Moncler.

Since 2015, at least 15 of Ivey’s core senior design team at Apple have left. Hankey will leave Apple next spring. He is not currently planning to join Ivey’s love from, people familiar with the matter said.

Crowd-sourced upgrades
The shakeup in the design team could affect the iPhone to some degree. in terms of hardware design, this year’s iPhone 14 is not much different from its predecessor, with the biggest highlight, Lingering Island, also benefiting from software tie-ins.

In the face of weak innovation, Apple began to further differentiate between the basic and Pro models, giving the Pro series the latest chips and Dynamic Island, resulting in consumers rushing to buy the Pro models, with sales of the basic version falling short of expectations and Foxconn even beginning to dismantle the basic production line in favor of the Pro series. Apple’s new larger iPhone 14 Plus was expected to be a big seller this year, but it turned out to be in poor demand due to the lack of upgrades.

▲The iPhone 14 design has not changed much.

For next year’s iPhone 15, Apple is expected to continue to squeeze in upgrades and put more new material into the Pro Series models. Apple will even put its heart into the name, renaming the top-end model the iPhone 15 Ultra.

Who will take the helm of Apple design?
At first, Apple will likely look internally for a new visionary leader, but it won’t be easy to find the next Ive or even Hankey. With Ivey gone, it makes sense for Hankey to be his replacement, as she has worked closely with Ivey as a longtime engineering manager and design chief.

Currently, only a handful of senior industrial designers from the Ivey era remain within Apple, including Duncan Kerr, Bart Andre, Richard Howarth, Peter Russell-Clarke and Ben Shaffer. Shaffer.)

Apple could find a replacement for Hankey from among these people, but that strategy has never worked in the past. Howarth, who briefly served as head of industrial design from 2015 to 2017, has had difficulty managing his former counterparts. Nonetheless, people close to the department believe he is the only senior member of Apple’s design department who could lead the team.

▲ Apple Design Studio

People close to the situation say Howarth would be a natural choice for Apple. Apple’s design team now consists of many designers at lower levels than him, and Ivey is no longer partially involved. Previously, Ivey’s involvement would have made it difficult for Howarth to execute new ideas. However, people with knowledge of the situation and others questioned whether Hauerwas wanted the position and how long he would remain at Apple. He and Andre are the two longest-serving members of the design team. Howarth has been at Apple for 26 years, and Andre has been there for 30.

Apple may also consider appointing software design chief Alan Dye to oversee hardware design, but people familiar with the team say his appointment would anger hardware designers. Apple could also bring back a former designers, some of whom may be qualified to run the team after holding management positions at other companies.

Another possibility is to poach from a competitor. Product design at Google and Microsoft has improved under the leadership of executives such as Google’s design chief Ivy Ross and Surface design chief Ralf Groene. But Apple has struggled to integrate rival executives into leadership positions. “The person has to be someone from within Apple.” Senior members of Apple’s design team noted that poaching from other companies would lead to the “death of the team.

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