Why Forstall to Ive is a bigger change than Jobs to Cook

Wednesday October 31, 2012.

I’m not going to make a habit of writing about the technology industry, but this week’s leadership shakeup at Apple has piqued the interest of the designer in me.

Alongside retail head John Browett, iOS head Scott Forstall has been shown the door. There is of course much speculation as to why, but what I find much more interesting is the implications of superdesigner Jony Ive taking over iOS UI design in addition to the industrial design.

Since Steve Jobs left Apple, even before his death, “This wouldn’t have happened if Jobs was still around” has been heard every time there is an announcement. But realistically, Cook has been running the show for years, hence very little changing since his official promotion to CEO. The two largely had the same vision at the 50,000ft level CEO’s operate on. The jobs to cook transition was effectively a name change, with very little executional difference.

Contrast that relationship to that of Ive & Forstall. The two have deep idealogical differences in design taste, come from very different backgrounds and it’s rumoured that in the end it was hard to get them in the same room. Forstall has reportedly always been Jobs’ guy and also shared some of his tackier skeuomorphic tastes. Ive on the other hand is famously a follower of Dieter Rams’ principles of design, which frames design as a subtractive endeavour, rather than the additive & decorative style Apple has utilised recently in its UI design.

So expect some significant changes in design. First, expect a much more coherent design resonance between the hardware and software now that the apparent departmental rift has been bridged. Expect UI decoration to fade in lieu of cleverness.

Ive isn’t dumb, these changes will come gradually. But this week will be looked back upon as a turning point for design at Apple.

Comments? Questions?

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