Lab Notes

Will iOS 7 Update Be The Death of Skeuomorphism?

iOS 7
We’ve known for centuries that the world is round. But Apple believes we’re ready for it to be flat.

Here’s what I mean. Back before average people had ever used one, Steve Jobs brought computers to the masses by making your experience using them feel as much like the real world as possible.

This approach is known as skeuomorphic design, and had been an integral part of Apple’s design philosophy since the beginning.

But flash forward to today’s toddler using an iPad, and Apple’s flat design for iOS 7 should surprise no one.

How is iOS 7 Different?

With a revamped icon system, redesigned typography, a new color palette and animations that add depth and live information, Apple’s new iOS 7 promises a future filled with stripped-down simplicity free of relating itself to the physical world. No more fake leather on the Notes app, the pine bookshelf of iBooks and the green felt in the Game Center.
Skeuomorphic Vs Flat Design
Skeuomorphism Vs Flat Design

Does Apple’s switch to Flat spell the end of Skeuomorphism?

While many critics despise the ‘tacky look’ of skeuomorphic design, in the right contexts, there’s still a place for it.

Take Pro Audio software plugins. They offer digital versions of analog compressors that sound engineers have used forever. The knobs and switches look and function exactly like the real deal, and a trained engineer will immediately know how to use them. Skeuomorph Audio Tools

Originally, these visual metaphors made new-fangled touchscreens familiar and intuitive. As we’re now six years since the first iPhone, Apple is betting that people don’t need such a literal education to navigate their digital worlds.

It’s a logical progression. But will existing apps that we depend on or enjoy feel archaic to use? Should critics really be eulogizing skeuomorphism?

Over time, sure, we likely will rely less on real-world visual analogs to make our digital worlds more intuitive. But I doubt we will ever fully disconnect.

Not until you can make a camera icon better than a camera, a trash bin better than a trash bin, or a weather feed without sun, clouds, snow, and rain.

What do you think? From a design standpoint, can our digital world ever fully disconnect from the physical one?
At GoKart Labs, we specialize in Invention & Business Strategy, User Experience & Design, Web & Mobile Software Development, and Digital Marketing. To find out more about becoming a client, call 612.454.4012.

Dan Behrens has true passion for user experience design. He loves and embraces every single piece of the puzzle, from information architecture to application design to user interface design to application architecture and design. Give him a chicken scratch idea on a napkin, and he'll be on his way to a highly usable and successful project.

  1. Maybe at Apple they see the world in digital form but our world is still three dimensional and the additional data of a three dimensional world is helpful and facilitates understanding. Apple will impoverish information communication.

  2. Sorry, but I don’t care at all for the new look in IOS7.

    The glassy flat metro look is … uninspired.

    SJ would’ve never gone for it.

  3. Noo Noo Noooooo!!! People like the reality It took so long to finally have the computing power to support beautiful apps that are fun to use and look at. Sorry Apple… someone on your team is working for android!

  4. I have to agree that the new iOS is uninspired. It’s horrible to navigate some of the apps. I used to love being able to hit the multitasking button and go back to my music easily. Also some of the UI is too tiny. I don’t think skeumorphisim should die completely..it’s useful when applied correctly. How about let’s creatively combine the worlds. No?

  5. In getting rid of stuff, they also got rid of the color and contrast. The new screens don’t look very good at all. Sorry, Apple, but this innovation (which I think is 3 steps backward) does not entice me to give up my android smart phone.

  6. I love it, it’s a breath of fresh air. The contrast now lives in the overall look and feel in the OS. We spend so much time looking at our phones and devices… Apple took the design and made it contrasting real world. I stare at a computer monitor and desk all day, I don’t want my phone OS to mimic the everyday crap. I want it clean, and fresh, and clean.

  7. We have come a one way in our view of the digital world. There were lots of critics of Apple’s leather and felt design. But they did it for a reason. Times change. design sensitivities change. Once people use a certain device, it is OK to change the user experience once they become more familiar with a given device and what expectations are of that device. We don’t drive the same car any more and would balk at a more spartan interior than what we are used to today. Our life experience allows us to accept new designs as well as give us the expectation the “next one” will be better. We will all adapt over time.

    1. Anything of great enough interest is both loved and condemned, and often both by the same people as novelty fades or deeper understanding is reached.

  8. Just discussing this on FB. It looks juvenile – “Hello Lisa Frank.” Beware migraine and seizure sufferers. Contrast is poor. How do you find your app in that sea of candy colors? We miss you Steve. Hope they offer a “classic look” option.

  9. I completely agree with most of the criticisms I’ve seen here. The new look is extremely boring, uninspiring and generic. I even tried to go back to the previous software but as I thought, it isn’t possible. To bad. My next phone may be a Samsung.

  10. Finally! Get rid of all the stupid and tacky bevels, gradients to look “shiny”, drop shadows, textures, glows. It was fine when Apple did it but all the Photoshop hack followers think it makes bad design look cool and it is everywhere.

  11. I just switched from Samsung of several years to the iPhone 5s. It’s my first iPhone. Except for the initial cost of the phone and the paid for apps, I really really like my new 5s even though the screen is slightly smaller then what I’m use to. I always had some quirks with my Samsung, but everything works with my new 5s along including all my favorite apps. Some quirks I had with my Samsung even after all the firmware upgrades were related to Bluetooth and the phone connection with my Ford Sync. The look and feel of the 5s works for me. Cheers!