Apple design guru Jony Ive promoted

Jony Ive Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Jonathan's promotion will allow him to pass on some of his day-to-day management duties

Apple has promoted British designer Jony Ive to the role of chief design officer at the world's most valuable company, according to reports.

Sir Jonathan previously held the role of senior vice president of design and helped design of some of the tech giant's most popular gadgets.

He was knighted in 2012 for his services to design.

The move was first revealed in an interview with Sir Jonathan in the Telegraph newspaper.

In an internal memo to employees, published later by tech blog 9to5Mac, chief executive Tim Cook said Sir Jonathan's newly created role would now expand beyond its devices and into designing the company's retail stores, new California campus and even office furniture.

Apple is in the middle of building a new campus, also known as "spaceship" for its circular shape that will house about 12,000 workers.

"In this new role, he will focus entirely on current design projects, new ideas and future initiatives," Mr Cook said in the memo.

"Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5,000 design and utility patents to his name."

Sir Jonathan has helped design products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad and smartwatch over the last couple of decades.

There were reports earlier this year that Apple was working on a car and that he could be behind its design.

He will start the new role in July.

Delegating work

Some of Sir Jonathan's previous day-to-day management duties will now be shared by two other executives, who will work under him.

Richard Howarth - another Brit - will take over as the new head of industrial design at Apple, making him responsible for the crafting of its hardware.

His name previously came to prominence during an Apple v Samsung patent fight in 2012, when court filings revealed he had played a key role in the design of the original iPhone.

And Alan Dye - an American - will become vice president of user interface design - putting him in charge of engineering the way consumers interact with its software.

He recently featured in a Wired article, which described the work he had done on the Apple Watch.

Allowing Sir Jonathan to take a step back from some of his previous duties may reflect the fact that he was described as "exhausted" in a recent profile by the New Yorker.

"I just burnt myself into not being very well," he told the magazine, referring to the fact he had suffered pneumonia in the run-up to the release of the firm's smartwatch.

Image copyright Apple
Image caption The promotion should free up more of Sir Jonathan's time to work on the Apple Campus 2 project

The article, published in February, said Sir Jonathan had wished to discourage the suggestion that he might be preparing to leave Apple.

Confirmation that he intends to stay with the company - albeit while engaging in more travel away from its California base - is likely to reassure investors.

"Jony Ive is intrinsically linked to the Apple phenomenon," commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight tech consultancy.

"Apple runs through his veins in the same way it did with Steve Jobs, thanks to the focus he has given to the products that it has delivered.

"To be one step removed from that does come with some risks for the organisation."

Apple's market capitalisation currently stands at $763.6bn (£495.3bn), making it the most valuable company in the world.

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