Significant turnover hits Jony Ive’s famed industrial design team at Apple

“Apple Inc.’s close-knit industrial design team is undergoing its most pronounced turnover in decades,” Tripp Mickle reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Rico Zorkendorfer and Daniele De Iuliis, who together have more than 35 years of experience at Apple, decided to leave the company recently, people familiar with the departures said. Another member of the team with a decade of experience, Julian Hönig, plans to leave in the coming months, people familiar with his plans said.”

“The departures of members of the core design team that revived Apple in the 2000s and did the work behind the iPhone, iPad and watch come amid a pause in new products, as the company emphasizes new subscription services this year instead of new gadgets amid slowing iPhone sales,” Mickle reports. “It also follows chief designer Jony Ive’s resumption a little over a year ago of day-to-day oversight for the industrial design group.”

“The ID group was key to resurrecting Apple’s business after co-founder Steve Jobs returned in 1997,” Mickle reports. “Mr. Jobs put the design group at the nexus of Apple’s product development process and lavished attention on the team, visiting it almost daily to see its latest work on new products. The combination of the ID team’s elevated status inside Apple and Mr. Jobs’s treatment helped create a group that worked and socialized together, becoming so tight that only a few members of the team left in more than a decade, according to some of these people.”

Jony Ive stepped “back from day-to-day oversight of ID in 2015,” Mickle reports. “Instead of spending time in the design studio, he devoted much of his attention to designing Apple’s new campus, which opened its doors in 2017. Richard Howarth, a vice president, led the group until Mr. Ive returned in December 2017.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Good luck to Zorkendorfer, De Iuliis, and Hönig! Congrats on jobs very well done as they leave Apple’s industrial design group in very good hands!

Steve Jobs left design chief Jonathan Ive ‘more operational power’ than anyone else at Apple – October 21, 2011


  1. This was always going to happen and it’s the norm in most design studios. It’s amazing the team have mostly stayed together as long as they have. It shouldn’t be seen as a negative but an opportunity to bring new blood into the design team. Hopefully they will bring new ideas, perspectives and approaches which will move Apple’s design language forward as I feel they haven’t been taking as many design risks as they use to. I sometimes get the impression that they’re very insular and work within a bubble which can lead you down the wrong path. In fact I often wonder whether the small size of the design team limits Apple’s ability to produce more products as unlike most other companies everything basically has to go through the design team (which I agree with but it’s still a limiting factor if you have such a small team for a large company). I think as long as this turnover happens gradually Apple is unlikely to loose it’s core design values. Instead I hope it will lead to interesting, even daring, new design elements in their products or a more pronounced evolution in it’s design language.

    1. It’s hard for their young designers and engineers to lose something they never understood in the first place. I fully expect more forehead slap-worthy design and engineering decisions.

  2. Good riddance , the design hasn’t really changed much over the years and these idiots sacrificed performance on design that did make a difference.

    Really who cares how thick a desktop computer is?

  3. The rest of the design team have worked out Ive is a one trick pony who is very adept at taking the praise for their hard graft.

    They of all people know what tired products are in Timmy’s Pipeline and are leaving the sinking ship. A product designer wants to do more than shave 1mm off a laptop every year.

    I’m sure they’ll all go on to much more interesting projects.

  4. I do not like being cynical, but sounds like continued suckage will be the order of the day. Forget the Apple you once looked up to folks, they are toast.

  5. “Mr. Zorkendorfer said he was taking a break from his professional life to spend time with his family, adding that he felt privileged to work on Apple’s design team. Mr. De Iuliis didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.”

    Two departing legacy Design Titans are 100% tight lipped. Like your mother taught you, if you have nothing good to say — say nothing.

    The other departing legacy Design Titan cites family reasons. Ageless automatic nicety to part clean and not burn your bridges.

    Design departures speak VOLUMES. The leader of the recent departing designers I’m guessing was first out the door. The loss of legendary talent and experience, drum roll please, Steve Jobs heir apparent Scott Forstall. Cook’s WORST MISTAKE!

    “The departures of members of the core design team that revived Apple in the 2000s and did the work behind the iPhone, iPad and watch come amid a pause in new products, as the company emphasizes new subscription services this year instead of new gadgets amid slowing iPhone sales.”

    Translation: Cook no longer needs you because I am in charge, not Jobs. So it follows legendary legacy talent is no longer required. The Apple BOD needs to grow a pair and release Tim Cook A.S.A.P.

    That said, will be very interesting in coming years to watch this EPIC loss of design talent play out when reconsidering the arrival of newsworthy heralded newbies. Do they have what it takes?…

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