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Apple cuts ties with Jony Ive after 30 years

The designer, who gave Apple its most iconic designs, seeks greater autonomy for his own firm

Two businessmen, Jony Ive and Tim Cook, talk with out of focus iPhones on stands in the foreground

Sir Jonathan Ive and Apple have parted ways, with the failure to renew their consulting agreement marking the end of a decades-long relationship, according to a report by The New York Times.

Ive has been the guiding voice for design at Apple since becoming senior vice president of industrial design at the company in 1997. After first overseeing the launch of the iMac, he also ushered in the widely celebrated iPod, iPhone and iPad designs.

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Arguably one of the most influential voices in design within the last century, he and his team defined the smartphone look with 2007’s iPhone launch, with the similarly ubiquitous iPad hot on its heels cementing the layout of so much tech to come. Indeed, in recent years he's been open about taking credit for smartphone design, criticising companies like Xiaomi for too-closely replicating the look of the iPhone.

The knighted designer left Apple in 2019 to start his own design firm, named LoveFrom. Ive reportedly signed a contract worth over $100 million with Apple, as part of a multiyear agreement to continue to consult for the company and for LoveFrom to take on Apple as a client.

At the time, there was no mention of drifting away from Apple, and the future seemed bright regarding collaboration between the designer and his employer of thirty-odd years.

"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,” Ive had stated.

It is believed that the non-compete clause between the two parties had been a point of contention in recent months, with Ive contractually required to seek clearance from Apple in order to take on clients and to turn down work that would compete with Apple’s business.

While Steve Jobs was in charge of Apple, Ive and he were said to enjoy a close relationship and trust. In his 2011 biography, Jobs stated that Ive was “not just a designer”.

“That's why he works directly for me. He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me. There's no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That's the way I set it up.”

It is not yet clear whether the move was a purely individual decision, or marks a wider change in company philosophy at Apple that could affect their designs going forward. The New York Times alleges that the relationship between Ive and Jobs’ successor, Apple CEO Tim Cook, is less amicable and decisions made in recent years led to Ive becoming “disillusioned” with the company.

Neither Apple nor Ive have commented on the development.

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