Jim Wicks, head of design at Motorola Mobility for the past twelve years (that's serious dedication in the tech biz), has left the company according to Crain's Chicago Business. Wicks' official title - Senior Vice President of Consumer Experience Design - makes it seem clear he likely had substantial roles in approving things like Moto Maker, an initiative that provided Motorola customers an unprecedented level of control over the personalization of the physical look and feel of their smartphones.
According to Crain's, Wicks will be replaced by a long-time Motorola designer who also ran Lenovo's MBG (Mobile Business Group) Design Studio, Ruben Castano.
This is an interesting turn of events, as Lenovo had specifically made the point in the past year that Motorola would be designing Lenovo's smartphones going forward - with the implication being that there would be a Motorola design identity that would bleed into all Lenovo's mobile products, not just Moto devices. By replacing Wicks with a former Lenovo Mobile exec, there would seem to be a substantial risk of turning Motorola's design into Lenovo's, as opposed to the previously-suggested arrangement. (ed.: see note)
Of course, the products of executive shakeups take time to trickle down to end devices, and it's unlikely we'll see any changes in Motorola's design or consumer experience directly related to this in the near future. Wicks' departure follows closely after that of former Moto CEO Rick Osterloh, who left the company back in April to head up Google's unified hardware team.
Wicks and Osterloh were apparently part of a leadership triad at Moto that includes Iqbal Arshad, who still heads up engineering at Motorola. With two of the three pillars of the company's contemporary power structure now gone, it seems that the fallout from Lenovo's takeover isn't a mere reorganization and some house-cleaning, but increasingly a gutting. Lenovo cut 500 jobs from Motorola's Chicago HQ last year. If the Moto Z doesn't fare well, I wouldn't be surprised to see this devolve into a game of executive musical chairs.
Note: This story previously stated that Wicks was being replaced by a Lenovo executive, Ruben Castano. Castano has, in the past, been an executive at Lenovo MBG, but has also spent many years working for Motorola as a designer. The story has since been corrected to indicate this.