Design Sponge

A simple blog to showcase my projects, as well as what excites me in the world of design and engineering

Skeuomorphism vs flat design… what’s the big deal?

Skeuomorphism is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately and on the day of iOS 7 launch what better topic to discuss in my first post. What is Skeuomorphism? The Oxford dictionary describes it as:

“an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artefact made from another material:the pottery box with a square lid is a skeuomorph of a twilled basketry container”

In terms of software design Skeuomorphism has been used ever since computers evolved from text based input to the icon based interface we are more used to today. An example of this is can easily be seen in the bottom right hand corner of most our screens… the “trash can” which resembles a rubbish bin allowing us to easily understand its function without having to explain it. Apple have always embraced Skeuomorphism, however, Steve Jobs seems to have had a slight obsession for it, pushing it to extremes with iOS versions to date. Nowhere can this be noticed more so than in the Game Center app, which uses a green felt, dark brown mahogany and stitches. In this respect I appreciate why Jonathan Ive has decided to move away from this, however I feel that his extreme version of flat design (which although very apple in its simplicity appears to just imitate other mobile platforms) does not add much to the overall UI.

ios6_ios7_home_screens (1)

Looking at the difference in both home screens it appears the only difference visually is the flat, simplistic design of the app icons. Gone are the drop shadows and glossy, realistic looking app icons. Personally, from a visual stand point I prefer the old look app icons, the new app icons look as though they have been designed on MS Paint by a 12 year old… how is that impressive!? I also feel that due to their extreme simplicity the app icons become more ambiguous looking, making it harder to understand the function of each app (the entire philosophy behind skeuomorphism).

I would like to say at this point that I am all for change and I think the differences made to the actual UI are awesome. I am not saying that iOS 7 is rubbish, when it releases later today I am looking forward to playing around with its new features such as the parallax effect wallpaper, control center and just generally enjoying everything taking advantage of the whole screen making the screen seem bigger. I do feel however that in terms of the core visual look, not much has changed; apps still appear on the home screen as they always have and although apple have effectively copied the likes of windows metro (Apple are known for being tech leaders, not followers) they still have not incorporated live tiles.

I appreciate simplicity and it fits to Apples core values, however I don’t feel that it was necessary to remove all Skeuomorphism. I completely agree that apps such as Game Center completely overdid it but surely a compromise between the two types of design could be reached?

To summarise, I feel that iOS 7 brings a lot of new useful features but that this new extreme flat design does not add much to the overall update. I am interested to see how the public react to this change in iOS… but I am sure that as Apple have been clever not to change the general layout of the home screen people will almost look past the icons that appear to have been designed by Jonathon Ive’s son (if he even has a son).


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This entry was posted on September 18, 2013 by in Interests, Uncategorized and tagged , , .


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