8 Tacky Design Crimes That Jonathan Ive Should Set Right In iOS 7 [Feature]


So long, Scott Forstall. Don't let your crappy skeuomorphic designs hit your ass on the way out.

Skeuomorphism, or the tendency to deliberately make something new look like something old and familiar. Some people love it, some people hate it and think it’s tacky.

No matter how you feel, his love for skeuomorphism is one of many reasons that former iOS chief Scott Forstall was fired yesterday. Replacing him is Apple’s Senior VP of Design, Jonathan Ive, who will lead a new Human Interface Group in Apple… and whom reportedly loathes skeuomorphism with every fiber of his being.

All that fake leather stitching, those hideous textures, those bizarre font choices in iOS’s stock apps? If Ive gets his way — and we think he will — they’re all about to change.

Here are the eight skeuomorphic apps in iOS 6 we hope Jony Ive is going to change in iOS 7, along with some third-party apps we hope he takes inspiration from.


The default Calendar app in iOS 6 is widely considered to be an eyesore, namely for using a tan patent-leather texture which makes it look like a sweaty, late 70s datebook. Calendars can, and should, be better looking than this. There are a number of alternative calendars on iOS 6 that look great, like Calvetica, but we would like to see something bolder from Ive in iOS 7: maybe something like Day, a gorgeous calendar concept design by Toby Negele.


Of all the skeuomorphic travesties in iOS 6, Reminders is one of the least offensive, but it’s still trying to look like a leather physical reminder pad when a 21st century touch interface opens so many more opportunities. One of the boldest and most satisfying to use Reminders alternative is RealMac Software’s Clear, which is the way a ToDo app should work when it’s not trapped by expectations from the past.

Game Center

With its faux casino table design, Game Center tries to channel a feeling of whimsy and fun using skeuomorphism, but instead just comes across as a cheap Vegas craps table. Blecch. There are better ways to appeal to gamers without being eyesores, as evidenced by Microsoft’s Xbox Live design, notably incarnated under iOS in the My XBOX Live app.

Voice Memos

As an example of skeuomorphic design done right, the default Voice Memos app in iOS 6 actually isn’t bad. It’s simple, it’s not fiddly, it doesn’t look obnoxious and it conveys a lot of information at a glance. What could be more obvious an interface for recording than a microphone? Even so, if you use voice memos a lot, the advantages of skeuomorphism quickly erode into annoyances: this is not an interface for anything resembling a power user. We’d say the Voice Memos design is one of the least likely ones that Ive will change outright, but if he does, we hope he will supplement it with some of the advanced functionality found in voice recording apps like Audio Memos Pro.


We’ve hated Apple’s skeuomorphic interpretation of Notes since the early days of OS X when it first appeared in the form of Stickies, and boy, do we still hate it on IOS. Part of it’s the ugly, fuzzy yellow texture; the other is the choice of the hideous font, which is now Noteworthy and was previously Marker Felt. Either way, it’s gross, and makes one of the most useful features on the iPhone and iPad a hideous abomination to use. We want Ive to kill this version of Notes in favor of pretty much any other interpretation. There are a million great note taking apps like Catch Notes, Drafts and Notefile, but is it sacrilege to say that we hope Ive actually sticks with a more tasteful skeuomorphism and adopts an approach to Notes in iOS 7 more like that embraced by the absolutely gorgeous Meernotes app?


On the iPhone, the Contacts app isn’t that bad, but on the iPad, the Contacts app has to go: it’s channeling a physical book when there are so many more interesting and useful things to be done. We’d like something like Smartr Contacts adopted across the board, featuring deep social networking integration, frequency charts, and more… all wrapped up in a beautiful, useful design.

Find My Friends

Even if you don’t hate skeuomorphism, it’s hard to imagine an Apple app design that would make as many people want to puke all over it as that of Find My Friends. Gross leather, gross stitching… it’s just a total horfcake. Pretty much anything would be better, as exemplified by the official Foursquare app, which may not be on the cutting edge of design but doesn’t want you to gouge your eyes out, either.

iBooks & Newsstand

It’s hardly the most egregious skeuomorphi-sin in the design world, but we’re not a big fan of Apple’s fake shelving for iBooks and Newsstand. We get the point: Apple wants to show off covers. But come on: in a few years, people aren’t going to even be buying books or magazines off of wooden shelves anymore; they are just going to pluck them from the digital ether. It’s totally unnecessary. As such, how about handling magazines and books not as digital versions of real-life products, but as the digital-first media they will be? By all means, show off covers, but if you’re going to, do it like Zinio.

  • _HROH

    No it’s time for Apple to copy other companies’ UI design.

  • MacHead84

    They better not screw with Reminders app to make it like the stupid apps that only tween hipsters love!

  • LDMartin1959

    Here. here!! I hated the fake leather from the get-go. Thought I was the only one. Let’s hope Ive *is* able to purge the skeuomorphisms.

  • MarcWilson73

    Two words: Kill Linen!

  • Bilbo_Biscotti

    I kind of like the looks that this article is trashing.

  • BrainGameMayhem

    Generally, I like the skeuomorphic design. Any app is going to have dead space. Why not make it beautiful? For example, Game Center’s felt looks great. Why would you replace it something boring like a solid color?

  • B066Y

    No it’s time for Apple to copy other companies’ UI design.

    No design is completely original…everything is inspired by something. Apple has made most of its money on improving on products and designs that already existed in some form or another. By the way I’m a big Apple fan, I love my Macs, but my previous statement is true.

  • Robert X

    Don’t tease me bro! :)

  • bdkennedy

    People will have to agree to disagree on this. Game Center makes me puke. The only thing missing is the smell of grandpa’s cigar smoke. Microsoft tried to use skeuomorphic design in the mid 90’s and it failed miserably.

  • TheKnightWhoSaysNi

    John, you need to give up your crusade against skeuomorphic design. Most people actually like it and only design snobs are bothered by it.

  • Rogier

    As much as I loathe the rather tacky designs, looking as a 19th century gentlemen’s club has set up shop in my iDevice, duplicating or blatantly copying other companies’ design would IMHO also be the wrong path to follow for Apple.

    Taking a fresh look at an existing app sometimes leads to interesting new designs or UI options, for instance: take weathercube.com (to whom I have no relation, I just like what they did) http://app.weathercube.com.

  • Michael Navas G

    My friend, you sure have very bad taste. Regardless of other’s people opinion about the current design in iOS, your proposals are utterly poor in taste and plain ugly. Why don’t you just get an android phone and rid us of your lousy taste?

  • Shilly Devane

    One are where users love sk design is audio apps, specifically recreations of real audio gear. The gear modeled is something usually wanted in real life, so the sk angle allows familiarity. Of course the recording apps also allow a bare bones, purely informational option for representing the controls, but it is cool seeing a Marshall front panel on the screen.

  • AlexGarbisch

    I really, really hope that the design people at apple aren’t reading these articles. I think that I speak for a large majority of people when I say I love the skeuomorphic designs in apples UI. It’s part of what makes apple products unique and, in fact, better. Apple practically invented skeuomorphic design in the UI. So if you don’t like it just get an android or stop whining. Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

    • dfasdfsdf

      And thats what happened. So boring now.

  • AlexGarbisch

    If that is the future, count me out! In most of those comparisons its like comparing a Victorian library with a messy mountain dew and pizza infused college apartment. And then proceeding to say that the apartment is clearly superior be cause it has cooler more useful looking stuff in it.

  • AlexGarbisch

    The iOS UI is styled and refined just like the products that run it.

  • volodoscope

    Apple is not gonna drop it.

    • dfasdfsdf

      Really now

  • gizmo401

    I like the Skeuomorphism. makes it relate to things I live with everyday. a book shelf, a desk, DVD/Blu-Ray shelf, brief case, wallet etc…

  • Ianu

    No mistake: Skeuomorphism is useful when is useful (and sometimes, even if is not useful, it’s not a bad idea to apply it).

    I will explain myself: iOS is a mobile OS (we must not to forget it) and it’s used in mobile devices. A smartphone is not something that you use for hours, you use it punctually and you need to focus as quick as possible. If you pick your phone and in less than a second you are not able to say which app are you in and (important from the Apple philosophy) what this app does, this interface is useless. ?
    That is the reason why Apple uses interfaces with a reality taste and it is part of all-time Apple experience.

    Take a sample of the opposite position: Windows 8 (and some of the apps and interfaces you posted as better than the actual ones). No colors in the icons, totally plain interfaces, no shadows at all, no way to distinguish between apps. You spend too much time examining what are each rectangle, and what does each plain icon represent. Do you want that: ok, go and take it, Windows 8 has been released a few days ago.

    I hope that Ive does not follow all this crusade against skeuomorphism and he just rationalize its use.

  • quixotequest

    Scott Forstall’s iOS approach problem is more drastic than skeuomorphism of individual apps, though I agree generally with the ire this article presents. Worse, especially, is the lack of vision in the UI on the iPad as Apple has built strong tablet market share while losing out on software UI vision to competitors in the tablet realm. The equidistant arrangement of like-sized app icons as the standard UI is a dated eyesore and hindrance to tablet productivity. For Phones, I feel slightly more forgiving, but not wholly.

  • wizard32843

    Generally, I like the skeuomorphic design. Any app is going to have dead space. Why not make it beautiful? For example, Game Center’s felt looks great. Why would you replace it something boring like a solid color?

    I like it too… when it’s suited.
    Some can stay because it really helps with the look and experience, but others, like Find my Friends, please kill it, kill it softly.

  • CaptainAndroc

    The “Future” Designs for the calendar and the reminders apps are much much worse than the current!

  • Stephen Vivian

    I have to say that I actually prefer the original stylings over the ones that have been proposed here. The only exception perhaps being Notes. But I feel the skeuomorphic designs make iOS look classier than what other mobile phones provide. Granted, I’m sure that Jonathan Ive can come up with something completely original that could sway me towards something more clean and minimalist, but they’d have to be leaps and bounds better than the suggestions here which look like utter crap!

  • rcrider4

    The only one I hate on that list is Newsstand, and that is only because I can’t hide its worthless self in a folder. But I like the design of it.

  • Tinny

    I hope ios7 will get NEW things, differently from ios6. Just take a look at jailbreak apps to discover how many improvements would make ios better. What we got with ios6? Maps, fb integration and ‘do not disturb’ mode?

  • ac1dra1n

    I think that Apple should use designs that take full advantage of their screen technology. Eye popping colors. And colorful designs. That’s what set the first iPhone aside in the first place. It had actual color. I hope they expand on that and remember that.

  • technochick

    So basically you want Apple to rip everyone else off. Why not, they did it to us

    I won’t be shocked if he doesn’t move to change such things. The utter pointless things like the knob shadows are what need to stop, especially when there are flaws all over iOS

  • tomp

    I’m glad you’re not their new UI guy. Your “FUTURE” designs SUUUUCKKKK!!!!

  • coffeebot

    As far as apps that need to be changed, I’m all on board with this list. Just looking at the Find Friends app makes me realise something went wrong. Who owns a stitched leather-bound notebook anyway? But where’s the podcast app? That’s something that has to be redesigned across the board.

  • ElWeroOjiverde

    I like skeumorphic design on my Macbook and my iDevices. The person who wrote the article thinks he speaks for all Apple users. He thinks he have some power to make everyone believe he is right and convince other people to buy his idea. John, just drop it. Besides, I like that design because it makes the devices look familiar and friendly, that’s why many people bought it, they are not afraid to interact with them as they would be with some cold, obvious computer OS design.

  • apriori

    Ive’s new mandate is the most exciting news to come out of Apple in years. Skeuomorphism cannot die quickly enough. Not only is it hideous, it’s also unforgivably condescending. I’m not a rube who needs a note-taking app to resemble aged-legal paper with clown font in order to understand its function.

    I don’t understand how someone can simultaneously like Apple’s hardware design and faux felt-smothered software gimmicks. Shouldn’t you skeuomor-fans be demanding computers that resemble Trapper Keepers from the 80’s covered in Lisa Frank stickers?

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    Why would you want to get rid of iBooks’ bookshelf? That’s just stupid! You’re really so appalled by any form of skeuomorphism that you’re suggest Apple turn its beautiful bookshelf into some ugly app with a sold color background? Also, I don’t think GameCenter looks bad either. In fact, I’m vegan and I like the faux leather in the apps. After a while, I don’t even notice the imitation texture anyways.

  • duncanfurg13

    Personally, I don’t really notice the skeuomorphic design. As far as the Game Center and Reminder’s apps go. The Notes app isn’t that bad. But I definitely agree with the others. Find My Friends looks pretty bad. I mean, it’s gorgeous, but ugly at the same time. Voice Memos needs to be redone, to match the new icon they gave it since its introduction. I feel like they need to update some of the native iOS apps to look like the Mac apps do, not vice-versa. Like, if they made Safari on iOS have the brushed aluminum look like the new Maps does, it would be good. If they remodeled Notes to have a tab-based interface, and also gave it the aluminum look, I think the OS would look a lot better. Contacts and Calendar on OS X really need attention though, as they look just awful. The brushed aluminum look works, and looks brilliant. They need to implement it almost everywhere. Sorry for the long post, but I feel that people will agree with me if they took the time to read it. It just doesn’t make sense for Apple to have a beautiful aluminum interface and hardware, but then have this crap leather stuff. Leather works for some, but not iOS or OS X. Leave the leather to the third party developers.

  • Ruichuen1989

    you must be kidding me

  • Deepak K Tibrewal

    There is no doubt iOS needs fresh ideas. One of the interface which needs change is phone app screens. Though they have got some blue in iOS 6 dialling screen, It feels half hearted attempt. I have been using / seeing it from day one from original iPhone and I vote for complete redesign.
    However a word of caution to Sir J Ive, in the process do not loose the simplicity of iOS UI, which we all Apple fans adore so much.

  • itsashow

    I am surprised at the responses in favor of the current designs but really shouldn’t be. Personally I find all of your suggestions a much needed change. When it comes to taste you will find the critics will possess an opinion quite the opposite of the general public. And for a reason. The favored wine or chocolate or cigar generally deemed superior by critics is not reflected in the desire by most people. It’s too much and outside the bounds of what the everyday person experiences. It’s something only an accomplished individual after experiencing all that the market has to offer can truly render a expert opinion. Most people aren’t afforded such opportunities. Unless you are exposed to a broad spectrum you will be limited to what exactly it is you like. There is a certain base element that a product will appeal to and it’s just a matter of statistics. The same is true with design. With cars or architecture or furniture there is a common denominator that will determine what reaches final production on a mass scale. Concepts appeal to the minority and will always do so. The public at large will regress to something more common which will reflect the average. I think Steve Jobs knew this and employed Scott Forstall for this very reason. Scott had the talent to create something that most people preferred as evidence by most of the comments to this post. Not to the minority. I’m sure Steve knew this. In fact it is my belief to remind himself of why Scott was an Apple employee Steve had an app (no doubt designed by Jonathan Ive) to inform him of the profit Apple was making on developers efforts to improve on Scott’s work. And he probably checked it daily. Think of it – if these apps were impressive from the start then why even try to improve upon them? That was probably Steve’s greatest genius. Above all Steve seemed to know the consumer. How else could you explain skeuomorphism?

  • yocko

    have you all lost your minds???? skeuomorphism classier? It is windows 95!!! like the whole of the iphone interface. I remember how disappointed I was when iPhone came out by all those little color thingies, it was so un-apple. But that is the whole thing. It had to be more windows like for the (American) masses to buy into it the way that they did. Until then the Mac experience had been too elitist for many…
    So that is what we got… the dumbing down of the mac experience…
    That is why it has been a huge risk that TC has taken. He fired populism and put excentricity in charge. I think it was the only possibility in the long run. iOs was petering out, so was OsX, no truly original new ideas… it was time for a radical shake up. And what better way than relying on the radical thinkers and designers that you already have on board…
    I have never been more excited for the next three four years at apple… OS11 and iOs8…. Cannot wait!

  • rajjon

    I never realized how much I innately hated skeuomorphism before I even knew what the word meant. I jailbroke my first phone (3gs) a few years ago and IMMEDIATELY replaced my phones native skeuomorphic apps with “clean” looking and functioning apps and interfaces.

    I customized it so much, it was barely an iPhone, which is why I’m getting an Android phone the next time.

  • MisterK

    The answer isn’t to copy other apps or Android/Windows. This is a golden opportunity for Apple to once again show themselves as a trailblazer (because they are). They helped create today’s web 2.0 style and, as much as some may hate it, they helped popularize this “skeumorphism” trend. I agree it’s time for Apple to update, but I have a grander challenge for them – to outshine their competition by going after their weak points and to use our decades of interface learnings to create something truly better and not just different. As a UI designer myself, I have a couple ideas of what they can look at.

    So what are the weak points of their major competitors? Let’s start with Windows Mobile because it’s being heralded as the next greatest thing in design by many. Here’s the thing… it’s trendy and it throws out the baby with the bathwater. Years of best practices down the drain. Gradients help signify that something is a button and not a bucket or container. Colors help distinguish between icons. Detail makes iconography more distinctive – in a vacuum, ignoring trendiness, an honest look at a photo realistic icon IS more futuristic than reverting to silhouettes. Put these things together and you see that updating iOS away from realistic textures but keeping visual cues we’ve learned help people navigate more easily is a better way to go. Let’s not make this monotone and flatten this like Microsoft did (for an easy design “win”. This trend has no more than 2 years in it. It will age poorly).

    So now for Android’s weak point. It looks, by design, as though it’s made by a computer. It’s clinical. They do a lot of great stuff but Apple needs to create something entirely human. Really human (not Microsoft’s version of that humanity). Apple needs to make something colorful and joyous. Something that looks like it was designed with passion. Definitely not clinical. The opposite of that.

    This is my version of Apple’s brief. Humanistic, using best practices (gradients to denote buttons, entire titles fitting on a single screen, detailed beautiful icons), high gloss, and finally something that uses a few cues from old sci-fi movies like Kubrick’s 2001. Their typography still looks futuristic to this day – Futura or something like Gotham set bold with wide kerning. People want to feel as though they’re using something from Star Trek and it needs to feel just a little bit ahead of its time… genuinely. An easy starting point is to decrease the space between app icons on our home screen grid. Make the app icons larger to fill that tile space. Make them live (because Windows definitely got that right). Forget about widgets. Make them look like a thing of the past… like something Apple was right to avoid. They accomplish nothing that a decent large live icon couldn’t. You want to offer all the information the competitors do without sacrificing the advantage iOS has of a 2 year old being able to figure it out in minutes.

    There are a few other things Apple can do with gyroscopes (tilting your phone gives a more realistic 3D effect “around” icons and parallaxes the background. Maybe Apple can look into building proximity sensors near the screen so we get “hover states” to make up for the mouse-loss of over-states. So much more information could be offered when your finger gets close to something) but I’ll save it for Apple’s guys.

  • kevinkee

    I thought the whole leather-faux skin idea is to make the apps friendlier. Most alternatives the author proposed feels cold and clinical – even though I like their cleanliness. They are plenty of things Apple can play around with for the next UI design. If they choose to abandon Skeuomorphism, they shouldn’t totally ignore the user-friendly concept. Is is possible to create something that is User-friendly + futuristic?

  • CharilaosMulder

    Just like Maps, this skeuomorphism thing is blown out of proportion. It really isn’t that bad.

  • ozymandius

    The “future” views in the article, at least for the calendar and reminders, are awful. I don’t need garish colors in my productivity apps. The others seem less objectionable. Which is another way of saying all Skeuomorphism isn’t bad.

    I think Apple would be wise to allow different skins to be selected by the user. Though, I recognize this is unlikely, since permitting significant UI customization is not Apple’s way.

  • buckustoothnail

    Why is it that everything that has made Apple cool and successful is now deemed “uncool”? I’m really trying to wrap my head around this. We’ve loved iPhones and iPads as long as we can remember, where were the complaints then? Personally I think many of the cited designs are fine and the so-called improvements rather atrocious.

    The alternatives suggested seem closer to early-millennium “virtual” “cyber”-era post-post-modernism and completely outdated.

    Skeuomorphism, when used correctly, is a way to connect new technology with recognizable symbols, forming a connection and familiarity for the user. It has nothing to do with making “something look old”.

  • glaurent

    You forgot Podcasts.

    And to counter-weight the comments, I’m not such a big fan of skeuomorphism either, though in some cases it looks pleasant – iBooks for instance. Contacts, however, is a perfect “bad example” of it.

  • C17H19N5

    I agree that Zinio is a better approach to displaying books and magazines than Apple’s, but I don’t see any reason to scour all aspects of skeuomorphism, especially if the more realistic representation provides functionality. For example, the traditional paper view of a calendar visibly shows your day filling up with appointments, letting you see quickly where the open spots are or whether a day is completely booked. The “Future” example provided here does neither of those things and is therefore less functional than Apple’s version. And your “Meernotes” example–look again, it’s emulating a Moleskin notebook. What’s the purpose of the skeuomorphic elastic strap? It is very attractive, but more functional? Go ahead and buy apps that look better to you–I’ll save my money and stick with utility.

  • anth

    I hope that he bins that shit asafp

  • aardman

    Some of the alternatives you suggest are just as bad. The reminders alternative looks hideously garish. Calendar isn’t bad if you can get rid pf the kitschy design motifs. Mostly, they just need to remove the trailer park influence and the apps are fine, maybe with some tweaking. But totally reconfiguring them just to be different? That’s Microsoft thinking and not welcome here.

  • ShillBuster

    Will you eve be allowed widgets? oh shame….

  • ShillBuster
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  • ShillBuster
  • ShillBuster

    SEOUL: Its products may not, as one British judge put it, be as “cool” as bitter rival Apple’s, but Samsung Electronics is speeding away from the iconic iPhone maker in the race for the global smartphone market.
    The South Korean giant first took Apple’s smartphone top spot in the third quarter of 2011, racking up a 20 percent slice of worldwide sales, compared to Apple’s 14.5 percent, according to telecom research firm IDC.

    Jump ahead a year to the just-finished third quarter of 2012 and Samsung’s share has surged to 31.3 percent, with Apple on 15 percent.

  • Yagnesh


  • NHTeaParties

    What a huge mistake you made Apple. Quality graphics was your trademark and the reason for your loyal following. Now folks are defecting to Android because why pay more for such cheapness? Not me… I’ll wait until you come to your senses and are easy on the eyes again.

  • NHTeaParties

    SEOUL: Samsung Electronics is speeding away from the iconic iPhone maker in the race for the global smartphone market.”

    And this now is happening faster since no one wants to pay Apple prices for a piece of trash that looks like a PC.

  • Daniëlle Zana

    I cant stand the flat design , i prefer skeuomorphism, at least I can tell what is content from what is function. in the iOS 7 i find it hard to navigate and have to refer to iOS 6 references, since I did not know what were buttons and what was diagrams and text. I also find the abstract shapes confusing, it is like learning symbols than relating them to objects of function to what people use on this planet. Its like having to learn a whole new glyph language. It took me a while to figure a large circle and a small circle was not a planet and a moon but an abstract image of a person , a user… In windows 8 I completely got frustrated with anxiety and I felt relieved in not working on the computer with windows 8 installed. its too 2D and flat, and shapes/symbols take a while to understand them., 2D is just to annoying… especially when I see tesseractic shapes in my mind of overlapping fractals and things.

  • Happymac Service


  • dfasdfsdf

    Your “Future” still uses skumorphism, whoever made this article is dumb. Magazine piles are somehow more futuristic than a shelf with magazine piles on it? LOGIC!!!

    You dumb people and your strive to make everything boring and generic has succeeded in iOS7 & iOS8. Everything is generic and looks the same. Look at what you have done.

  • dfasdfsdf