Apple to eliminate ‘industrial design chief’ position; team will now report to COO Jeff Williams

Apple is eliminating one of its most high-profile executive positions. According to a new report today, Apple is eliminating the role of “industrial design chief” as part of a broader transformation. This role was once held by Jony Ive and most recently by Evans Hankey.

Hankey has been Apple’s top product designer since 2019 as vice president of industrial design. She is the successor to Jony Ive, who left Apple in 2019. Under this structure, Hankey is responsible for hardware design and Alan Dye has her VP title for human interface design.

But Hankey, as previously announced in October, plans to retire in the next few months after three years at Apple.

bloomberg Now, following Hankey’s resignation, Apple is reportedly not appointing a new executive to take on the role of “industrial design chief.” This is a big change to Apple’s leadership structure, as there has been a “VP of Industrial Design” for decades.

According to the report, Apple’s “core group of industrial designers” will report to Apple’s COO (Chief Operating Officer), Jeff Williams. In the previous structure, Hankey reported to Williams, while the core design team reported to Hankey.

With this change, Apple’s “longest-tenured” designer will have a “larger role”, but no one will be promoted to the top-level “industrial design chief” position.

Instead, the company’s core group of about 20 industrial designers will report directly to Apple’s COO, Jeff Williams. The company will also give a larger role to a group of Apple’s longest-serving designers. Hankey has been with Williams since he joined Williams in 2019 when his top designer, Jony Ive, retired to start his own company.

That group will take on a larger role as part of the shift. However, Williams decided that no one was named the new head and that the entire team would report to him. The move brings Apple’s operations group closer together with design, frustrating some of Apple’s creatives and his staff. It would also boost the status of Williams, who is seen as a potential successor to Tim Cook.

Williams’ responsibilities at Apple continue to grow. The company’s leadership webpage advertises that Williams “oversees Apple’s entire global operations, as well as customer service and support.” He also leads Apple’s health-related projects to “pioneer new technologies and advance medical research.”

9to5Mac’s take

The increased involvement of operations executives in Apple’s design process has been criticized not only by Apple commentators, but also by design and creative within Apple. The decision to hire Williams, a veteran head of operations, is unlikely to alleviate those concerns.

Williams is seen as a possible successor to Tim Cook as Apple’s CEO.

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