Steve Jobs Himself Is Responsible For Calendar and Game Center’s Hideous Skeuomorphic Designs

Steve Jobs Himself Is Responsible For Calendar and Game Center’s Hideous Skeuomorphic Designs

The interior of Steve Jobs’s private Gulfstream jet is what inspired the hideousness of iCal’s faux-leather skeuomorphism.

Hate skeuomorphism? Hate the way Apple’s slathering all of its apps with faux dead cow skin? Tough luck, because you know whose idea it was? Steve Jobs himself.

Can’t believe it? It’s apparently true. Fast Company spoke to former Apple designers who say that the sudden burst of skeuomorphic designs in OS X and iOS aren’t Scott Forstall’s doing, but Steve Jobs’s, who was so taken with the leather pattern on his private jet that he pushed the same pattern upon iCal.

But before Forstall, it was Steve Jobs who encouraged the skeuomorphic approach, some say. “iCal’s leather-stitching was literally based on a texture in his Gulfstream jet,” says the former senior UI designer. “There was lots of internal email among UI designers at Apple saying this was just embarrassing, just terrible.”

And what about Game Center? Steve Jobs himself pushed hard for it to look like a casino:

Perhaps the most infamous culprit of this design direction is Apple’s Game Center, the social-gaming app that’s dressed in a lacquered wood and green felt that lends it the feel of a casino. “Steve pushed very hard to have everything–the felt-cloth table, the game chips–look like they would in real life,” says another former Apple designer. “Internally, a lot of people were shocked by the richness. Many think it’s gone too far.”

It’s worth noting, of course, that Steve Jobs has long embraced skeuomorphism. Remember when every surface of OS X was lacquered with fake brushed metal? In fact, the Mac operating system is one of the first major examples of skeuomorphic computer design: Mac OS was supposed to look like a virtual desktop. Of course Steve Jobs loved skeuomorphism. That doesn’t make the recent design blunders of apps like Calendar and Game Center any less embarrassing though.

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  • Drmstix303

    Personally, I think this whole skeuomorphic design thing is blown way out of proportion by bloggers. I think that it adds a different feel to computing and makes Personal Computing more Personal. What do you guys all think?

  • Drmstix303

    Personally, I think this whole skeuomorphic design thing is blown way out of proportion by bloggers. I think that it adds a different feel to computing and makes Personal Computing more Personal. What do you guys all think?

  • Mahmood Al-Zadjali

    Agreed.

  • Nicholas Randio

    I like the skeuomorphism. I don’t know why blogs are going ape on this. Elgan in particular was nuts over it.

    Its definitely better than everything being flat and monochrome like windows phone.

  • Tony7th

    Why is it assumed that EVERYONE hates skeuomorphism? I personally love it, and hope that Apple uses more of it in their native apps. It gives the entire Mac experience a certain character and personality, compared to the sterile and boring look of many OS’.

    I know that Apple never gives us many options as far as OS customization, but it would be cool if we could turn the skeuomorphism off. So that all the complainers can have the plain look that they want.

  • andrewgm

    Seems it’s designers primarily who are offended by skeumorphism for intellectual or academic reasons, and they have outlined their objections many times online (going back to at least the brushed-metal look for apps, which the above article notes was Jobs-inspired too). But for many/most regular users, who aren’t designers, skeumorphism either doesn’t matter or is in fact appealing. And probably Jobs knew that (the guy was kinda smart about what people want!). I personally like the leather look of iCal — reminds me of an old Filofax, which is a nice association to me. GameCenter is kinda ugly to me, but I also don’t really care. It’s really as simple as that. I do agree that an interface should follow proven principles, be natural and logical, be consistent, etc., but the visual overlay seems to matter a lot less and is more a matter of opinion. Bottom line, though, I am glad that OS X does not look like Windows 8. Now THAT I would complain about!

  • mr_bee

    You can hate skeuomorphism, but there are very valid design-based reasons for it’s use. It’s also very popular. Most tech bloggers simply don’t understand design and have a more engineering kind of slant, so they write endless articles about how bad it is.

    In terms of this article though I have to call foul on some very sloppy journalism. The quote says, “iCal’s leather-stitching was literally based on a texture in his Gulfstream jet.” The *author* however says, “Steve Jobs’s, who was so taken with the leather pattern on his private jet that he pushed the same pattern upon iCal.” This is not the same thing at all and takes great liberties with the known facts. There is a big difference between “the pattern comes from the jet” and putting thoughts and feelings into Steve Jobs’ mind about the whole thing that you couldn’t possibly actually know.

    Please just stick to the facts. Stop making all this stuff up just to sound dramatic.

  • Virgil

    John, I understand that you hate skeuomorphic design and I respect that you have an opinion on the matter; however, I find it disconcerting that you get paid for each article (three by my count) in which you’ve stated this opinion. If you bothered to read the comments section in each article, you’ll find that the vast majority of people that read this site don’t share your opinion; thus, each time you post a new article discussing how horrible you believe skeuomorphic design is, it’s falling on deaf ears.

  • concentrateddon

    Who needs to be paid to get the Apple blogospehere to stop using the word “skeuomorphism?” Railing against this is like saying, “why would you paint a car any color but white?” It’s an attempt to make the on-screen display more attractive. It’s visual design; by definition, it’s art. Not everybody likes all art – that’s fine – but leave off, for the love of Pete.

    You know, if all the haters had their way, we’d have plain, white, utilitarian GUIs. Bleh.

  • Tallest_Skil

    There’s nothing “hideous” about the applications. Come off it.

  • ddevito

    There are certainly logical ways to use skeuomorphic designs (icons, etc) but seriously the Find My Friends app is awfully displeasing to the eye

  • itskittibitch

    I actually love those designs. Never really understood the hate for them.

  • ChanLi

    Omg… Again…
    I hate you, John Brownlee! Please stop it.

  • ChanLi

    You can not judge about the design, because the design of your own Cult of Mac is ugly and doesn’t fit into the overall concept of the attention to detail of Apple. All your website has advertising and ugly elements not only design, but works stupid. And you judge Apple about natural and beautiful interfaces??

  • Forest Walker

    What I really hate is that Brownlee learned that word, and is apparently paid some kind of bonus everytime he uses it. This bonus must be slightly lower than the one paid for using the term “BYOD”

  • dguilder

    Only wanna-be hipster journalists and Windows 8 UI designers hate skeuomorphism. Everyone else likes it.

  • TheKnightWhoSaysNi

    “Skeuomorphism” – A word invented by people who don’t have anything important to complain about.

    iCal/Calendar, iBooks, etc. are fine looking applications and the leather and wood textures do not get in the way of using them.

  • Tallest_Skil

    “Skeuomorphism” – A word invented by people who don’t have anything important to complain about.

    No, it’s of a Greek root and has been around far longer than Apple’s designs.

    iCal/Calendar, iBooks, etc. are fine looking applications and the leather and wood textures do not get in the way of using them.

    Agreed.

  • Mystakill

    While most find this particular topic a bit pedantic, I’d love to know why they thought that the ugly slate-blueish rectangle buttons were a good replacement for the rounded aqua buttons, or why the grey scrollbar was better than the aqua scrollbar. And then there’s the monochromatic Finder icons, which make it more difficult to pinpoint things visually. OS X is becoming a generic, muted, monochromatic mess. I’d venture to say that iOS has better buttons at this point, because there are more color options than in OS X.

  • hogarth

    Why was this piece even written? Oh, wait – to make the point that Steve Jobs had what the oh-so-hip writer considers to be bad taste, despite his designs’ overwhelming popularity? Ok – I get it. Next.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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