September 18, 2013: iOS 7 launches with a radical redesign that divides the tech world.
The biggest overhaul Apple’s mobile operating system has seen in years, iOS 7 ditches the skeuomorphic objects, dials and textures of previous iterations. Instead, it boasts stark patches of white space, simpler icons and more abstract controls for settings. The Jony Ive era of software design is truly underway.
Take one look at any screenshot from a pre-iOS 7 iPhone, and you’ll wonder how we ever used such a hideous interface for so many years. The skeumorphic design language included so much fake wood, glossy plastic and gray gradient that there’s almost nowhere to put the actual contents of the app.
iOS 7 went way too far in the opposite direction, with flat white pages and skinny text. Is that a button? Is it just a label? Can I press it? Who knows? We’re still suffering from this UI ambiguity today, in iOS 13. Text got thicker, but it’s still hard to know what to press, and what is just there to be read.
Clearly, there’s a space between these two extremes. Something as clean as iOS 7 and, at the same time, as obvious and usable as iOS 6 and previous versions. But what would that look like? I know what I want it to look like. It’s called “neumorphism,” and it looks fantastic.
Created by London-based university students Carrie Bale, Doug Hindson and Jooyoung Ryo, “Skew” is a charmingly low-fi animation which gently lampoons the monotonous cycle of our day-to-day lives in the digital world.
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!
There’s been a lot of hullyboo about skeuomorphism in the Mac and iOS community right now. Ever since the debut of iOS, Apple’s software has become increasingly ornamented with unnecessary textures and details that many people consider tacky, such as the fake Corinthian leather in Calendar or the green felt background in Game Center. This style of design is called skeuomorphism, and outed ex-Apple VP Scott Forstall was one of Cupertino’s main proponent for its wide spread use in iOS and OS X.
The way people talk, though, it’s like skeuomorphism is a unique problem of the digital age. It’s not. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a problem with skeuomorphism too. So before you revile Scott Forstall for using it too much, keep in mind, it’s a design technique as old as civilization.
Rafael Justino just published his concept for what iOS 7 might look like, and while there’s still a great deal of skeuomorphism in Justino’s concept, his vision adds a lot more functionality to some of the basic apps of iOS.
The full video is ready for your examination below:
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.
Are you wondering why I said anachronistic? Well, seriously, the old-school world of fake leather and book bindings is goofy enough when it’s a real world item (unless it’s the sweet BookBook case for your iPhone…drool), but the skeumorphic leather and book bindings in newly-named Calendar and same-old-name Contacts apps in OS X Mountain Lion are ridiculous. I haven’t used a paper calendar or address book in years, even in the days before the iPhone. I know – gasp – there was life before iPhones.
Here’s an app that will remove this fugly visual choice – then you can forever thank us for helping you use your digital world just a bit more, erm, digitally.