Apple’s hardware design chief is now collaborating more closely with software and interface design staff, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Apple’s mobile software team now gets peeks at hardware prototypes sooner than before, the report claims, and Ive is pushing for a “flat design” in future versions of iOS.
The report is well-timed: Apple has just released an update to Podcasts that removes so-called skeuomorphic elements (those that resemble physical objects, in this case a tape deck) from the design. That could very well be Ive’s influence at work, if he is indeed working more closely with iOS software interface teams. Or it might just be an indicator of the general shift in design climate at Apple resulting from recent management changes.
Ive now occasionally sits in on the human interface team led by Greg Christie at Apple, according to the WSJ, vetting new designs when they come up for review at regular meetings. And while he is reportedly pushing for change, the paper’s sources stress that those changes will be relatively subtle.
There’s also the claim that Apple’s newly united Mac and iOS teams are undergoing slow change under Craig Federighi, according to the unnamed sources, with more shifts expected in the summer. Apple also just hired ex-Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch as VP of Technology, so there are clearly still changes being worked out in the upper echelon of the company’s management. Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment on the WSJ’s report.
Apple’s minor visual updates to features like the lockscreen, music playback controls, the music player itself, and the changes to Podcast could be a clue as to where Ive is having an influence on software interface design. The integration of thinking around software and hardware design could be a small but important ingredient in driving still more consumer interest in iOS, even if the impact of design isn’t always the most apparent.
I wrote about a shift in the thinking around iOS interfaces being led by third-party developers in a previous post, but a changed internal approach could bring about a similar, but likely more gradual internal shift. Hopefully this means the change to Podcasts today won’t be the last in terms of modernizing Apple app designs.