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OPLIN 4cast #348: Goodbye, Skeuomorphs

Posted in 4cast

skeuomorphsBack in June, Apple announced that it was going to start avoiding skeuomorphism. Skeuomorphism is not some contagious disease; it’s a design principle that, when applied to computers, makes the computer interface look like things from the real world. From its beginning, Apple (and Steve Jobs in particular) thought skeuomorphs were important to make people comfortable with technology, and so the earliest Apple computers had a screen that looked like a “desktop.” The fact that Apple is now moving away from skeuomorphism in the design of its mobile apps is a pretty strong indicator that we have come to the point where people don’t feel as much need for the computer “world” to look like the real world. So – no more pine bookcases in the iBooks app.

  • Why Apple ditched its skeuomorphic design for iOS7 (The Guardian/Steve Rose) “Look closely, and skeuomorphism is all over Apple and other user interfaces – the little shadows cast by windows, the highlights on virtual buttons designed to make them look shiny, like real buttons. Originally this was to help us neanderthals make sense of the dazzling new technology before us, as in: ‘Oh, I get it. That looks like a button, so I’m meant to push it.’”
  • What is skeuomorphism? (BBC News/Sam Judah) “The envelope is the de-facto symbol for email and SMS messages. It offers a nice distinction between read and unread – they become opened and unopened envelopes. […] You cut and paste on Microsoft programs like Word and Outlook using scissors and a clipboard. The ‘show desktop’ icon on Windows XP looks like a leather-bound desk blotter. Not just an old-world item, but something that hasn’t been on the typical desk for a long, long time.”
  • The head of Android design: Small screens are pushing a new wave in design (Quartz/Christopher Mims) “On the other end of the spectrum, at least in theory, is Windows Phone and Google’s Android operating system, which operate on the principle that most people already know how computers work and we don’t need to coddle them with flourishes that make interfaces resemble objects, like physical calendars, which most of us don’t even own any longer.”
  • After skeuomorphism (TechCrunch/John Biggs) “Whereas Solitaire taught users to point to a single item on their desktop, these new buttons train users to use all their senses, to intuitively control an environment with the cues that are so infinitesimal that only someone from a future generation could grasp them. We are that future generation. That’s right. We made it. We’re in the future.”

Steve Jobs quote:
“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.” (Fortune magazine, 24 January 2000)