Apple Inc. hardware design chief Evans Hankey is leaving the iPhone maker three years after taking office, creating a significant void at the top of a company famous for its sleek-looking products, according to people with knowledge. knowledge of the subject. affair.
Hankey was appointed to the role in 2019 to replace Jony Ive, the company’s iconic chief designer for two decades. Before assuming her current role as vice president of industrial design, Hankey spent several years at Apple reporting to Ive. Since then, she has reported to Director of Operations Jeff Williams.
The departure was announced inside the Cupertino, California-based tech giant this week, with Hankey telling colleagues he will remain at Apple for the next six months. Hankey oversees several dozen industrial designers, and the company has not named a replacement.
His pending departure marks the first time Apple has not had a de facto chief designer since co-founder Steve Jobs reasserted control of the company in the late 1990s and appointed Ive to the role. Richard Howarth, a key designer on the Ive and Hankey teams, briefly held the role of head of industrial design, reporting to Ive, between 2015 and 2017.
Apple confirmed Friday that Hankey is retiring.
“Apple’s design team brings together creative experts from around the world and across many disciplines to imagine products that are undeniably Apple,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The senior design team has strong leaders with decades of experience. Evans plans to stay while we work through the transition, and we’d like to thank him for his leadership and contributions.”
The elegance of Apple products, including the revolutionary idea of a phone that was just a screen, helped fuel the company’s comeback under Jobs. And he has remained a key differentiator under Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, helping fend off rivals like Samsung Electronics Co. and Amazon.com Inc., and making Apple the world’s most valuable business. The company is on track to approach $400 billion in sales this year, according to analyst estimates, a new record.
Apple has weathered this year’s tech downturn better than most. Its shares are down nearly 17% in 2022, compared to a 31% drop for the big-tech Nasdaq Composite Index. Apple rose 2.7% to $147.27 on Friday.
The void left by Hankey could affect Apple’s future design plans and raises new questions about how its products will evolve in the post-Ive era. It’s not clear if Hankey is heading to another company.
Ive has cast a long shadow over Apple, even after his departure in 2019. The British-born executive left to start his own design firm called LoveFrom, and Apple became one of his biggest clients. But that arrangement ended this year.
Apple has been working on key new devices, including a mixed reality headset for next year and augmented reality glasses to arrive at a later date. There is also the possibility of an electric car sometime in this decade.
Alan Dye, Apple’s chief software and user interface designer, is not going anywhere and will continue to report to Williams, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Dye was also promoted in 2019 following Ive’s departure. Gary Butcher, a former lead designer within the Dye division and currently vice president of design at Airbnb Inc., is returning to Apple, they added.