Apple Inc. (AAPL - Get Report) Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is leaving the company to start an independent design firm, according to a statement from Apple issued after the close on Thursday. Apple will be one of his new firm's clients, however. 

Shares of Apple were falling about 1.1% to $197.53 after the news was announced, after trading flat during the day.

Ive has been with Apple since 1992, shepherding landmark efforts in iMac, iPod, iPhone and interface design. In 2012, Ive, a native of the United Kingdom, was knighted for his work. He was a fixture of Apple's presentations introducing new products over the years. 

Ive has been described as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' "spiritual partner," by Walter Isaacson in his biography of Jobs.

"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," said CEO Tim Cook in a statement.

Apple said Design team leaders Evans Hankey, vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, vice president of Human Interface Design, will report to Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer following Ive's departure.

"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. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple's history," Ive said in the statement. "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."

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