Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive announced on Thursday that he’s leaving the company to start his own company named LoveFrom, which will include Apple as a client.
Ive, who was close with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is the best-known designer of tech products. He’s responsible for most of the Apple products you’ve probably used during his time at the company, which coincided with Apple’s return from near-death to one of the most valuable companies in the world. His designs are so popular, some are on display in museums.
Ive had a hand in many product designs, but here are a few of the most iconic.
If you were alive in the 1990s, you remember the iMac G3. It’s still Apple’s most colorful computer ever. It had an iconic “Bondi Blue” shell, though thirteen colors were sold in total. The entire computer was packaged behind the screen, similar to some earlier designs but far more fun than the boring creme colored desktop computers Apple’s competitors were selling.
While perhaps not considered as successful as the iMac G3, the Power Mac G4 Cube is still one of Apple’s most famous designs. It was smaller than other computer towers and the insides pulled out of the cube with a handle, which was easier than unscrewing the side of traditional computers. It also looked a heck of a lot cooler than most other computers.
The iPod was first launched in 2001 and quickly became the must-have MP3 player. Unlike CD players, it allowed people to carry thousands of songs wherever they went. Like other iconic Jony Ive designs, part of its attraction was how easily people could scroll through long lists of songs using the wheel design.
In 2007, Apple turned the smartphone market — dominated by Microsoft, Palm, BlackBerry, Motorola and others — on its head with the release of the first iPhone. Its focus on ease-of-use, a premium design and a multi-touch display helped Apple quickly establish itself as a major player.
Microsoft and other companies had tried to sell tablets, but nobody was able to make them popular until Apple launched the iPad. Like the iPhone, Apple focused on ease-of-use, offering a large screen to browse the web, watch videos and flip through pictures, all things we take for granted today but that, in 2010, felt like magic on the first iPad.
Apple had another win with the original MacBook Air. It was so thin that Steve Jobs introduced it by pulling it out of a manila envelope on stage, something no other mainstream laptop at the time could have fit into. Some design aspects, like the keyboard, were so good that most people wish Apple would ditch its current butterfly design for it on its modern laptops.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to walk down the block of a modern city and not see an Apple Watch on someone’s wrist. But before it was introduced, skeptics didn’t think Apple could pull people away from traditional timepieces. That changed once Apple introduced the Apple Watch, though, with its touch-screen display, convenient twist “Digital Crown” controls. And, importantly, it still looks like a relatively normal watch.
Here’s another win for Jony Ive. Bluetooth headphones were gaining in popularity a couple of years ago, but Apple entered the market and took control of it with the AirPods. Initially considered a bit silly looking, today they’re pretty much standard wear on fashionable people. Again, Ive’s focus on simplicity helped make them popular: just pop them in and you’re listening to music. Even the charging case — itself a brilliant design choice — has an addictive click mechanism.
Ive helped design Apple’s new Cupertino headquarters, named Apple Park. The project began in 2004 and the campus officially opened in May with a Lady Gaga concert. Apple Park, circular in design and often referred to as the “spaceship” is entirely powered by renewable energy. In Thursday’s announcement, CEO Tim Cook said Apple Park is where Ive had been most recently putting “so much of his energy and care.” Now that it’s finished, Ive is moving on, though Apple will still be a client.