Facebook is finally working closely with Apple — on iOS 6 — but it’s also hiring away some of its design talent. The latest is Chris Weeldreyer, who has just left his position as a user interface design manager to become a product design manager at the social network.
What will he be doing? “We’re excited to welcome Chris Weeldreyer to Facebook, where he will be a great addition to our growing design team,” Facebook tells us. But we’ve also learned from a source close to the company that he’ll be focused on its mobile products.
Another interesting clue is the description in his LinkedIn bio, where he describes himself as a “[p]roduct designer with experience in both hardware and software product development.” That’s more than eight years of experience… right when Facebook is recruiting hard for a renewed smartphone hardware effort.
Here’s some more detail about that, from Nick Bilton at The New York Times in late May:
One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he had met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones. It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said. Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company’s hardware explorations.
Facebook is going to great lengths to keep the phone project a secret, specifically not posting job listings on the company’s job Web site, but instead going door-to-door to find the right talent for the project.
There’s still an open position for a product design manager, as Inside Facebook notes. But rather, as it wrote when it broke the story yesterday, the hiring seems to be separate. Here are a few reasons why. Facebook is quick to update the hiring page (that is, I spent years watching it closely when I was at Inside Facebook, and it was always fast in my experience). The page is still live so it may not be about him, particularly since he made his move official on LinkedIn. Also, the current position doesn’t say anything specific about mobile.
Whether or not Weeldreyer is part of some smartphone skunkworks project, he’s also not the first Apple design-side person to go over to Facebook recently. There are only 89 former Apple folks at Facebook, according to available LinkedIn data, but another one of them is Sharon Hwang, who went from being a senior art director to a product designer in March.
The overall sense is that Facebook is trying hard to polish the rough edges of its products, and continues to be attractive enough as a workplace that it can get world-class talent.