Apple’s head of hardware design, Evans Hankey, is leaving the iPhone maker three years after taking the role, creating a significant hole at the top of the company known for its slick-looking products, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Hankey was named to the post in 2019 to replace Jony Ive, the company’s iconic design chief for two decades. Hankey had been at Apple for several years reporting to Ive before taking her current position as vice president of industrial design, but has since reported to chief operating officer Jeff Williams.

The departure was announced inside the Cupertino, California-based technology giant this week, with Hankey telling colleagues that she will remain at Apple for the next six months. The company hasn’t named a replacement. Hankey oversees dozens of industrial designers.

Design has been one of Apple’s key selling points for its devices for decades

Her pending exit marks the first time that Apple will be without a de facto design chief since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs retook control of the company in the late 1990s and appointed Ive to the job. Richard Howarth, a key designer on both Ive and Hankey’s teams, briefly held the role of head of industrial design, reporting to Ive, between 2015 and 2017.

“Apple’s design team brings together expert creatives from around the world and across many disciplines to imagine products that are undeniably Apple,” a spokesman said in a statement. “The senior design team has strong leaders with decades of experience. Evans plans to stay on as we work through the transition, and we’d like to thank her for her leadership and contributions.”

With its slim, aluminum iPads, boxy MacBook Pros and all-screen iPhones, design has been one of Apple’s key selling points for its devices for decades and a key differentiator from Samsung Electronics, and other top rivals. The void left by Hankey could impact Apple’s future design plans and poses the question of how the company’s products could look in the future.

Apple has been working on key new devices, including a mixed reality headset for next year, and augmented reality glasses as well as the possibility of an electric car later this decade.

Alan Dye, Apple’s head of design for software and user interfaces, isn’t going anywhere and still reports to Williams, the people said, asking not to be named discussing information that’s not public. Dye was also promoted in 2019 upon Ive’s departure. Gary Butcher, a former top designer within Dye’s division and currently Airbn’s vice president of design, is returning to Apple, they added.

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