Veteran Apple Designer Greg Christie Departs As Jony Ive’s Role Grows

Apple has confirmed the exit of long-time software designer Greg Christie, who was a vice president in Apple’s design department. “Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement. “He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class Human Interface team which has worked closely with Jony for many years.”

The news of Christie’s departure was first reported by Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac this morning. Christie’s group will report directly to Ive instead of Craig Federighi. So, while Christie is leaving, this really denotes a shift of the Human Interface design group from Federighi’s direct responsibility. Federighi was put in charge of both iOS and OS X software after Scott Forstall’s exit.

According to multiple sources inside and outside the company, Christie’s exit has been known for weeks — and planned for even longer. His stepping aside has been designed to allow for a transition of leadership inside the Human Interface group. Christie worked under Forstall for many years, and there may have been plenty of times he didn’t agree with Ive, but there has reportedly been a distinct lack of drama in this transition.

If there was any ill-will between Christie and Ive, it doesn’t appear to have taken the form of any open conflict and a flare-up of friction was apparently not behind this exit. We hear Christie will stay at Apple a bit longer working on “special projects,” in a similar manner to former SVP of Technology Bob Mansfield, until he exits. From what we understand, Christie was recently moved into a role with no direct reports, which is often the harbinger of retirement at Apple.

There will be big changes inside the HI group with Christie’s departure, regardless, so this should be an interesting period of transition that continues the changes Apple made when Forstall was removed and Ive was placed in charge of all Human Interface at Apple. Forstall engendered a great deal of loyalty at the company, and it’s likely some folks weren’t happy with his departure, or with the new design direction of iOS 7. But that ship has sailed and there is some sense in making sure that the department, under Ive, will have a focused approach when it comes to iOS design down the road.

Notably, Apple stock vests on two dates each year — and one of those is April 15. Christie was also called upon to testify regarding Apple patents in the retrial with Samsung, and gave interviews regarding some of those patents in advance. Christie has been with Apple for 20 years, and was involved in the launch of the iPhone.