Apple’s famous design team responsible for creating some of the company’s most popular products such as the iPhone and iPad disintegrated in turmoil in the years following the death of visionary founder Steve Jobs, according to a new book.
The team of 20 engineers began to come apart in 2016 after Jony Ive, who spent more than a decade working under Jobs, stepped down from day-to-day management duties, according to an excerpt from Tripp Mickle’s “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul.”
Mickle’s book describes a prevailing view within the tech giant that Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, was a more technocratic figure from the supply side of the business who did not have the imagination of the iconic founder.
Jobs, who co-founded Apple alongside Steve Wozniak in 1976, died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. Under Cook’s leadership, Apple has seen its market capitalization exceed $3 trillion. Last year, Cook was awarded $100 million in compensation.
Much of the financial windfall came from the revolutionary products created by Ive, the British product designer who is credited with helping develop the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
When he gave up day-to-day duties as chief design officer in 2016, he was succeeded by Richard Howarth, who assumed the role of vice president of design.
Since Ive was a Jobs protege, “his word was final,” Mickle, a tech writer for the Wall Street Journal who covered Apple, writes in his recently released book.
While Howarth was a talented designer, “he could become defensive and passionate when engineers challenged him,” according to the excerpt, which was published by Fast Company.
Mickle writes that designers at Apple were prone to such “outbursts” because “operationally minded executives and engineers with seniority sought to increase their influence over designs.”
Howarth’s team grew frustrated after higher-ups said they needed to start over on a design overhaul of the iPad — even though they had spent a year on the effort.
When the company determined that it would be too costly to produce a revamped iPad, it scrapped the project entirely, according to Mickle.
That decision led to the departure of Danny Coster, the lead designer who defected to GoPro, the tech giant that manufactures action cameras.
Coster’s departure was a shock to his colleagues considering that he had been at Apple since 1994.
Another top designer at Apple, Chris Stringer, was alienated by the company’s apparent lack of commitment to see through the production of a more sophisticated version of the HomePod, the smart speaker.
According to the book, Stringer thought Apple considered the HomePod a “hobby” that lacked “cross-division focus” that was applied to its signature products.
When it became apparent that Apple wouldn’t invest in the HomePod to the degree that he thought appropriate, Stringer left to create his own audio company.
Another top designer, Imran Chaudhri, was fired months after he told Ive and Alan Dye, the vice president of human interface design, that he planned to quit once he was able to collect equity shares that he was owed as part of his compensation package.
A month before he was due to quit, Chaudhri sent an email to colleagues announcing his departure.
Quoting the Persian poet Rumi, he wrote: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Chaudhri then added: “Sadly, rivers dry out, and when they do, you look for a new one.”
According to the book, Ive and Dye took the email to mean that Chaudhri thought Apple’s best days were behind it.
Fearing that it would damage morale at the company, Chaudhri was fired. To add insult to injury, Apple would not allow him to receive his shares.