Sir Jony Ive, the Briton who over two decades helped turn Apple into the world’s most valuable company, is leaving to set up his own venture.
Sir Jonathan, designer of the iMac, iPod and iPhone, leaves later this year to start a creative firm, LoveFrom, with Apple as its first client.
“This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change,” he said.
Apple boss Tim Cook said his “role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated”.
But the departure comes at a time of wider change at the tech giant. Retail chief Angela Ahrendts left in April and investors have been worried about falling iPhone sales.
Sir Jonathan said in a statement: “After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer.
Little is known about LoveFrom, but it will be based in California and there are reports one area of focus will be wearable technology. News of his departure broke in an exclusive interview in the Financial Times.
In the article Sir Jonathan said Marc Newson, a friend and collaborator at Apple, would also join the new firm. There would also be “a collection of creatives” spanning several different disciplines beyond design, he said.
He became head of Apple’s design studio in 1996, when the company was in poor financial health and cutting jobs. The turnaround began with Sir Jonathan’s iMac in 1998, and the iPod in 2001.
Apple’s founder, the late Steve Jobs, once said of Sir Jonathan: “If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony.”
BBC reports that one of Sir Jonathan’s most recent projects was finishing Apple’s new corporate headquarters, Apple Park, an ultra-modern complex designed in partnership with British architects Foster + Partners.
Ben Bajarin, analyst with Creative Strategies, said: “It’s the most significant departure of somebody who was a core part of the growth story” under Mr Jobs.