Former Apple designer Sir Jony Ive joins Airbnb

Worldwide: British designer Sir Jony Ive, who oversaw the creation of the iPhone, iMac, iPod, Apple Watch and AirPods at multinational tech firm Apple, has been brought on board by Airbnb to collaborate with the home-sharing platform’s internal design team in a multi-year deal.

Ive, who is a “long time friend” of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, will lead projects to revamp the company’s app and website through his new design firm LoveFrom. He left his role as chief design officer at Apple last year.

Chesky said: “Jony and I have been good friends for many years. We’ve seen how design can facilitate trust and enable more human connection, something people are desperate for during an unprecedented time of loneliness and disconnection.

“He will also help us continue to develop our internal design team,” he added.

The hiring of Ive is seen as a move to boost the company’s public perception after a seemingly negative wave of publicity threatened to tarnish Airbnb’s reputation earlier in the pandemic, such as its association with so-called “Covid parties”, vetting of guests and perceived impact on local property markets, ahead of its protracted initial public offering [IPO], which is slated to be finalised by the end of the year.

Airbnb is especially keen to be seen to be returning to its “local roots” and core services which have served as the firm’s backbone since launching in 2008. Chesky himself has reiterated his desire to improve Airbnb’s relations with hosts by facilitating “human connections”, following debates over its handling of cancellations and refunds in the early stages of the pandemic.

In 2014, Airbnb unveiled its “Belo” logo to represent the “universal symbol of belonging”, although this was met with a mixed reception across social media, with some users claiming the logo resembled intimate body parts.

In recent years, Airbnb has sought to distinguish the design of its website, apps and products, including launching its home design initiative Backyard in 2018 as “an endeavour to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes”.

It also hired Apple industrial design group member Miklu Silvanto to head up the industrial and interaction design team at Backyard, an offshoot of Airbnb’s in-house design studio, Samara. He left in April just before the company announced widespread redundancies, trimming its workforce by at least 25 per cent.

However, Airbnb Plus, which launched in 2018 with the aim to create hotel-like design and quality standards for homes, was seemingly abandoned and its staff were laid off or reassigned to other projects as the company strived to cut costs down to its core offerings.

According to Airbnb, the ratings system, which is used to vet its properties and guests, will be among the elements getting a design revamp.