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Apple's Jony Ive Promoted To Chief Design Officer

The Apple logo hangs in the glass box entrance to the company's Fifth Avenue store in New York. The company has just promoted designer Jony Ive to chief design officer.
Mark Lennihan
The Apple logo hangs in the glass box entrance to the company's Fifth Avenue store in New York. The company has just promoted designer Jony Ive to chief design officer.

The news of Jony Ive's promotion was first revealed, oddly enough, in a long, fawning profile of Ive in the Telegraph, written by British comedian and TV host Stephen Fry. "Until now, Ive's job title has been Senior Vice President of Design," Fry wrote. "But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple's Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him."

9to5mac.com obtained the official memo sent from Apple CEO Tim Cook to staff announcing the promotion, which also heaped praise on Ive:

"Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name. His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time. Jony's design responsibilities have expanded from hardware and, more recently, software UI to the look and feel of Apple retail stores, our new campus in Cupertino, product packaging and many other parts of our company."

As Ive moves to his new role, Apple's Richard Howarth becomes the company's new vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye becomes the new vice president of user interface design. The memo says the two will handle "day-to-day managerial responsibilities" previously handled by Ive. The Wall Street Journal reports Howarth is a 20-year Apple veteran and that Dye has been with the company for almost 10 years.

In his profile of Ive, Fry said that in his new role, Ive will travel more and "bring his energies to bear... on the Apple stores that are proliferating around the world." Ive is also deeply involved in the construction of the new Apple Campus 2 near Silicon Valley, which Fry called "the largest private construction project in America."

Though most coverage of Ive's promotion discusses it in positive terms, a few news outlets are speculating that it might be the beginning of the end for Ive at Apple.

At Business Insider, James Cook wrote:

"But what if this change isn't a promotion? What if it's an exit path for the British designer that could see him travel back to England, spend more time with his family, and eventually leave Apple?

Many of the company's closest followers aren't seeing this as a promotion. Rather, they think it's the end of a crucial era for Apple."

Cook said the announcement in The Telegraph was made on Memorial Day, when stock markets were closed, avoiding a possible "sudden dip in stock when traders saw the news."

And at Stratechery.com, Ben Thompson wrote, "In my estimation, whether Ive intends it or not — and I think he likely does, for what it's worth — this is the beginning of the end of his time at Apple." Thompson pointed out that this might be the right time for Ive to begin making his exit, fresh from the successful launch of the Apple Watch, and at a moment when Apple doesn't seem to have any significant new products launching for at least a few years.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam worked at Vermont Public Radio from October 1978 to September 2017 in various capacities – almost always involving audio engineering. He excels at sound engineering for live performances.
Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.