Apple’s head of hardware design is leaving the company after three years

Apple’s main replacement for Jony Ive is leaving the company. The company has promised Bloomberg that industrial design chief Evans Hankey is leaving after three years. As of this writing, there is no named replacement, but Hankey will reportedly remain in her position for six months as part of a transition. Alan Dye, who took over as lead software design from Ive in 2019, will remain in his role.

Shuffling may not be strictly negative. Bloomberg‘s sources claim that Gary Butcher, one of Dye’s former top designers and currently Airbnb’s design VP, is returning to Apple. It’s not clear what responsibilities Butcher might take upon his return.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Apple stressed that its design unit has “strong executives with decades of experience” and manufactures products that are “undeniably” representative of the company. There is no explanation as to why Hankey is leaving.

Hankey had many expectations of her when she took over. Ive was responsible for many of Apple’s most iconic hardware designs, including the iMac, iPod, and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much Hankey shaped product design (I didn’t fully part ways until July), she has overseen a mix of cherished revisions and subtle developments during her tenure. The company ditched the disliked butterfly keyboard-era MacBooks in favor of more practical models and introduced some major redesigns, like the iMac M1. At the same time, caution was sometimes called for – witness an Apple Watch that hasn’t changed much since 2018 aside from the Ultra.

This doesn’t necessarily mean trouble for Apple. However, it increases the potential for a change in design direction, especially for products in unfamiliar categories. The company is still rumored to be developing a mixed reality headset, augmented reality glasses, and even an electric car. Although Hankey’s influence can still be felt with larger launches, there’s a chance that their successor will bring a new twist to these devices.

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