For the past year, Apple’s head of design Jony Ive has reportedly been taking a hatchet to the skeuomorphic design principles of iOS. When iOS 7 is announced later today, it is widely expected that he will show us a much more modern-looking operating system, one emboldened by what is widely called a ‘flat’ design aesthetic.
But let’s keep a little bit of perspective here. Jony Ive isn’t completely overhauling iOS 7 because of some petulant, blind hatred for skeuomorphism. He’s doing so because he’s a pro, and skeuomorphism is solving a problem that iOS no longer has: how to teach people to use devices that, a mere six years ago, seemed impossibly futuristic and sci-fi-like!
Over at Fast Company Design, John Pavlus has written a fantastic piece explaining why Jony Ive is flattening iOS 7. And surprise! It has nothing to do with Scott Forstall pissing in his Cheerios.
iOS’s original, shiny, “lickable” UI taught the entire world how to use touchscreen mobile devices. As I’ve argued elsewhere, skeuomorphism was a canny and monstrously effective solution to a daunting problem: how to make an input method once only seen in science fiction movies seem as normal and friendly as. . .well, as dialing a phone. Skeuomorphism was a teaching method to make the ambiguous seem obvious and the futuristic feel familiar. And six years later, school is pretty much out.
But the s-word isn’t a synonym for “tacky” or “dishonest” or any other kind of gossipy/moralizing nonsense. The reason why iOS’s much-mocked Podcasts UI sucked wasn’t because it was skeuomorphic. It was because the mental model of a reel-to-reel tape machine simply made no sense. You barely knew what you were looking at, so the skeuomorphism couldn’t instantly orient you regarding the app’s functionality. In other words, it was illegible.
In other words, good design always aims to strip out the unnecessary and the no-longer-needed in pursuit of a greater clarity of form. Jony Ive is a pro, one of the world’s greatest living designers: he’s not executing a personal grudge, he’s just getting rid of something we don’t need anymore.
Read the whole piece.
Source: Fast Company Design.