Airbnb has hired Sir Jony Ive, the lead designer of Apple’s IMac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, to create the next generation of the home rental firm’s products and services.
Ive, who quit as Apple’s chief design officer in 2019, will also be charged with redesigning Airbnb’s website and app as the struggling San Francisco company tries to convince people to travel again despite the pandemic.
Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, said the company had signed a multiyear “special collaboration” with Ive’s design company LoveFrom. Chesky said he and Ive shared the same belief in the value and importance of creativity and design.
“We each believe not only in making objects and interfaces, but in crafting services and experiences,” Chesky wrote in a blogpost. “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.
“We have made the decision to work together through a multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb products and services.”
Ive, who was born in Chingford, east London, and studied at Newcastle Polytechnic, was knighted for services to design and enterprise in 2012. He joined Apple in 1992, and led its design team from 1996 to 2019.
Airbnb is struggling in the face of the pandemic as many people have stopped travelling. The company, which expects 2020 sales to bring in less than half of that collected in 2019, laid off 25% of its staff in May.
“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill,” Chesky said in an internal memo at the time. “Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019.”
Airbnb had planned to float on the stock market this year, but has had to delay the initial public offering (IPO) and slash the price. Some investors hoped the flotation would value the 12-year-old tech firm at up to $42bn (£32bn) – even though the Wall Street Journal reported the business lost nearly $320m in the first nine months of last year.
In August it filed confidential IPO paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission but did not detail the size of the float, the expected price or the timetable.
Airbnb employees have long been pushing executives to press ahead with an IPO because stock options granted to long-serving staff will start to expire next month. Those shares could be worthless if the platform is not trading on the public market.