Jony Ive’s well-documented aide Harper Alexander, who managed Apple’s secretive design studio, appears to have left his role at Apple. In his own words, Alexander was previously in charge of Ive’s design studio, calendar, security, meetings, expenses, and personal projects, since 2009.
Referenced in multiple recent profiles as Ive’s top assistant, Harper updated his LinkedIn on July 1st, Ive’s first day in his new “Chief Design Officer” role, to indicate that he no longer runs Ive’s design studio or serves as executive assistant to Apple’s CDO. On July 1st, this is what became of Harper’s biography:
He clearly states he “was” Ive’s assistant and office manager, and that he finished this job in July 2015. After discovering this change on Alexander’ LinkedIn, we contacted him for comment, and received no reply. A day later, his only public-facing website was deleted and his LinkedIn biography was mostly reverted to its state prior to July 1st:
It is possible that Alexander has not left Apple and has instead taken on a new role, but his brief biography change on the LinkedIn job site does seem to strongly indicate that he no longer is Ive’s assistant nor in charge of Apple’s design studio. While Apple has positioned Ive’s move to “Chief Design Officer” as a promotion, the possibility that his Cupertino-based assistant would depart on the first official day of the new role is intriguing.
Alexander no longer being Ive’s assistant would indicate that Ive no longer has any direct reports. Contrary to what was implied in The Telegraph’s Memorial Day 2015 profile of Ive and his new role and Apple CEO Tim Cook’s own email to employees, the new vice presidents of Human Interface and Industrial Design, Alan Dye and Richard Howarth, actually report to Cook rather than Ive.
This means that Ive is shedding the entirety of his managerial duties with this new role, and the possibility of his assistant leaving raises the question of how involved Ive could be at Apple to no longer need a design studio manager or lead assistant. Of course, it is possible that Apple could simply have hired a replacement for Alexander, but the July 1st timing seems to indicate a planned departure.
Following the announcement of Ive’s new role, we noted that the change raises several interesting questions that could point to Ive reducing his direct product involvement at Apple beyond what Apple has portrayed. Ive’s top assistant and office manager leaving, combined with Dye and Howarth actually reporting to Cook, adds fuel to the theory that Ive’s responsibilities are shrinking rather than growing.