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Jony Ive, Star Designer of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone, to Leave Apple

Apple chief designer Jony Ive announced Thursday that he is opening his own design firm, LoveFrom, and will be leaving Apple later this year.

The iconic designer, whose products helped Apple claw itself back from the brink of bankruptcy, has been a key figure at the world's most successful consumer electronics company for more than 25 years. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change,” Ive, 52, told the Financial Times.

For almost 20 years, dating back to the groundbreaking reveal of the iMac desktop computer in August 1998, Ive has been the design soul of Apple. Even at 31-years old, Apple's then vice president of industrial design had a poetic way of describing the look and feel of Apple's products. "You know how, when you take a shower, condensation forms on the glass?" Ive told Fortune in 1998 about Apple's second coming. "We wanted that same kind of exquisite matte surface finish on the cable."

And each turn of Ive's tale follows a similar arc to Apple's climb. With every product Apple has released—from the iPod, a Dove soap-sized music player that derailed the entire music industry, to the Apple Watch, which has gutted the sales of traditional timepieces—Ive's impact has spread further and wider, just like his company's.

Ive's meticulous attention to detail led to—what was for some—anguishing waits for products. For example, the iPhone was arguably Ive's most successful product, and the iPhone X took five years to develop.

However, Ive has likely been well compensated for his fastidious nature, though his net worth is a mystery. Ive's salary information has been exempt from SEC disclosure rules because the Apple doesn't technically classify him as a director, despite his title as chief design officer.

In recent years, however, there have been questions surrounding Ive's—and Apple's—design inspiration. Once a fixture at Apple events, Ive's appearances had been reduced spots in promotional videos. In 2015, he reportedly handed off his day-to-day managerial duties, a move that allowed him to spend more time in the U.K. with his family. Then came odd turns designing pet projects, like a Christmas tree inspired by “nature and technology, tradition and the future,” for a London hotel in 2016, and in 2018, a $150,000 ring made entirely out of diamonds. He even contributed ideas for the design of Kylo Ren's lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Over that time, Ive also dreamt up his most lasting design to date. Apple Park, the company's spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. was designed by Ive, and “built like a product, not like a piece of architecture,” Apple industrial designer Marc Newson told the Wall Street Journal. (Newson, The Financial Times reports, will also be leaving Apple to join Ive at LoveFrom.) There may be more poetry than truth to that statement, as the 2.8 million square foot, ring-shaped building which opened in July 2017 reportedly cost $5 billion to build.

Ive's departure from Apple comes at a fraught time for the company. Earlier this year, Apple announced the departure of Angela Ahrendts, the company's retail chief who came onboard in 2014 after 12 years as the CEO of Burberry. In addition, with iPhone sales waning, Apple is looking for its next "next big thing"—an effort that has it doing everything from launching a streaming video service to acquiring a self-driving vehicle startup.

Ive, meanwhile, will launch LoveFrom, a startup of his own. Apple will be a client, allowing Ive to continue working on wearable and healthcare products with the company he's been at since 1992. LoveFrom will be based in California "for now" The Financial Times reports, and Ive's firm will be taking outside clients.

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “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.”

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