• Apple's longtime design chief Jony Ive is leaving the company, the firm announced on Thursday.
  • Ive will launch an independent design company, which will count Apple among its primary clients.
  • Ive has overseen the design of everything from Apple's products to its retail stores and new campus, and has been regarded as one of the firm's most important executives since joining in 1996.

Jony Ive, Apple's famed longtime design chief, is leaving the company, the firm announced on Thursday. He will be launching his own independent design company, and Apple will be among its primary clients.

"Apple will continue to benefit from Jony's talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a company statement. "After so many years working closely together, I'm happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony long into the future."

Apple's design team leads, Evans Hankey, vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye, vice president of human interface design, will now report to Jeff Williams, the firm's chief operating officer.

Ive has led Apple's design team since 1996 and has become one of the company's most iconic public figures. As the design guru behind Apple's biggest products, he has widely been regarded as being one of the most important executives at Apple other than Cook. He was a close confidant of Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder and former chief executive, and played a critical role in shaping the firm's history and building it into one of the world's most valuable technology companies.

Over the course of the more than two-decade long tenure at Apple, Ive has led the company though hallmark product launches in new categories, such as the iPhone in 2007 and the Apple Watch in 2014. He's been responsible for the design of everything from Apple's hardware to its software, product packaging, retail stores, and even the company's new Apple Park campus, which opened in 2017. Ive has been honored with a number of awards, such as being named the Design Museum London's first Designer of the Year in 2003. He also won the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's Product Design Award in 2007.

"After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer," Ive said in an Apple press release. "Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple's history. The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come."

Ive is departing Apple as the company is branching into new territories, including television and gaming. The firm held an event in March during which it unveiled a paid TV subscription service called Apple TV+, which will offer Apple device owners access to exclusive original programming, and a gaming service called Apple Arcade. The announcements come amidst a push from Apple to expand its growing digital services business as iPhone sales have stalled.

Apple's new products always draw a lot of attention. But with Ive no longer holding an official role inside the company, the firm's upcoming product releases -- including these digital services and its next iPhones -- are likely to be more closely watched than ever.

--This post originally appeared on Business Insider.