For those who thought that the Senior Vice President of Design title would be the pinnacle of Jony Ive's career, guess again. Yesterday the Journal broke the news that Ive has been named Chief Design Officer of Apple. The title change will apparently free him from managerial tasks, allowing him to focus on what he does best: Design.
In the newly created position, Ive will "focus entirely on current design projects, new ideas and future initiatives," according to a statement by Apple.
…"His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time," Cook wrote in a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Ive's previous day-to-day managerial responsibilities as senior vice president of design will be divided between Richard Howarth, vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye, vice president of user interface design, the company said.
The title of Chief Design Officer is still a relatively new phenomenon--not just for Apple, but for corporate enterprises as a whole. Johnson & Johnson, Kia, PepsiCo and Philips only recently added the titles to their rosters. Overall the title signifies a positive shift for the profession of industrial design; those of you with corporate ID experience have undoubtedly worked in design departments that were folded into your company's Engineering or Marketing divisions, creating a structural arrangement that can stifle the very change design is supposed to bring about. The creation and empowerment of Chief Design Officers reveals an awareness of this problem and provides a bold solution. As Forbes put it in an article from last year,
The CDO has a unique combination of skills that help businesses understand and engage consumers in a more holistic way. Designers better understand the needs and wants of consumers that allow them to be able to better identify and create new products and services. They also see opportunities to incorporate environmental sustainability into the packaging design of products....
Today's enterprise-wise CDOs are no longer reporting to marketing or merchandising, but instead, to the company president or CEO. In an ironic twist, marketing, in some cases, is reporting to the CDO.
As for what influence on Apple's product line Ive's new position will engender, that's of course impossible to say. But the positive change it will have on our industry is plain to see, and ironically involves one of Apple's headaches: Copycats. As other companies seek to emulate Cupertino, they'll undoubtedly be scrambling for CDOs of their own. Let's hope they get it right.