iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max displayed in an Apple store in Shanghai. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Apple will not replace its outgoing vice-president of industrial design, Evans Hankey, according to a report by Bloomberg. Hankey worked at Apple for more than 20 years and served as the top product designer for the company for three years. She will leave in the coming months.
The move is a departure for Apple, which has built much of its success and reputation on its emphasis on design, and gives ammunition to critics who say Apple is no longer a leader in innovation.
Hankey was appointed lead of the industrial design team in 2019 after Jony Ive, who was chief design officer at Apple since 1997 and is credited with creating Apple’s streamline aesthetic, left the tech giant to start his own firm. While Hankey announced that she was leaving the company in October, her departure is part of a broader exodus of designers from Apple since 2015. The remaining group of tenured designers, including Ben Shaffer, Molly Anderson, and Richard Howarth, at Apple will receive larger roles as part of the shift, according to Bloomberg.
Instead, the entire design unit—both hardware and software teams, which were split in 2015—will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief of operations, who formerly spearheaded supply chain, AppleCare customer support, and global operations. John Ternus, Apple’s hardware engineering chief, was assigned to take over hardware engineering operations for the Apple Watch, alongside more shifting which will occur as a result of Williams’ appointment.
Placing the design team under Williams has reportedly irritated some of Apple’s design-oriented team members, Bloomberg reported, as the engineer’s oversight will link Apple’s operations and design teams for the first time and may diminish the significance of design in Apple’s operations moving forward. Apple representatives said hiring an outsider to replace Hankey would have been the “death of the team,” according to Bloomberg in November.