Ive was instrumental in establishing Apple’s sleek design aesthetic. He and Steve Jobs partnered on a remarkable run of products, ranging from candy-colored iMacs to the iPod and the original iPhone, that revived Apple’s fortunes and made it the most valuable company in the world. His work earned him design awards, a knighthood and the company of celebrities like Bono.
“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.
In recent years, Ive, age 52, had stepped back from his day-to-day management responsibilities at Apple and taken on a number of side projects, including helping to design a high-end Leica camera, a Christmas tree, and a diamond ring that sold for more than $256,000.
Ive told the Financial Times that he was starting a company based in California called LoveFrom that will focus on design as well as other creative projects for clients. The company will officially launch in 2020.
In a testament to his influence at the company, Apple described him as responsible for the “look and feel of Apple hardware, user interface, packaging, major architectural projects such as Apple Park and Apple’s retail stores, as well as new ideas and future initiatives” on its site.
Ive and Jobs had a close relationship. According to Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, the two would have lunch together every day and talk about design in the afternoon. Jobs considered Ive a “spiritual partner,” according to Isaacson’s book.
Apple stock was only down slightly — less than 1% — in after hours trading following the news.
Seth Fiegerman contributed to this report