Apple design, Jony Ive and the rise of skeuomorphobia

“Most people who’ve been using the word skeuomorphic lately aren’t exactly clear about what it actually means,” Matthew Panzarino writes for The Next Web.

“Skeuomorphism is a technical term, used almost completely by industrial designers or digital artists until recently, when arguments about where Apple’s design are headed dragged it out of the dungeons of semantic obscurity and into the harsh light of ignorance,” Panzarino writes. “So many things about design on iOS are mistaken for skeuomorphism. A ‘leather’ texture, for instance, is not skeuomophic in and of itself. If it’s applied to an object that is leather in its original form, and then that object has interaction design and function applied to it that also mimics the original’s purpose, then it becomes skeuomorphic. The Contacts app is, for instance, but the Find My Friends app is not.”

Panzarino writes, “Making a choice to ‘make things skeuomorphic’ or ‘make things less skeuomorphic’ in a unilateral fashion, across iOS and maybe OS X, makes as much sense as deciding to stop using the color blue. You either use blue or you don’t use blue, you don’t decide ahead of time to outlaw blue for life.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


      1. You are very nearly correct. The slight difference lies in increasing the braggadocio quotient of the message, sharpening it with gangster-style modifiers while muting the intrinsic shock value by substituting non-alphabetic place-holders, which also serve to defeat censor algorithms. The phrasing of the message is typically urban bad-boy argot and the choice of modifiers, while overly reliant on Anglo-Saxon glottal articulations, is succinct. Linguistic anthropology experts have observed that while such combinations originally arose as effective deterrents to tribal violence, today they serve chiefly as maximal intensifiers in written exchanges about political, philosophical, and religious ideas, and trivially but ubiquitously, consumer technology choices.

            1. Shrewd guess, that. No, just a fan of yours. Few people these days are willing to challenge ineptitude in language, thought, and deed. I applaud your efforts, however quoxotic. Keep up the good work. Shall we hoist one together? Uh…you drink, I presume?

        1. you must seek an IP on your para phonics literati on most user interface subject matter of UI interface importance. See… That’s not so hard to under estimate the ignorance of good design. Right? Just slap a Windoze logo on the Mac llci nobody can tell the difference now ….. Right Bill?

  1. skeumorphic themes are comforting to us people born before 2000. I used to go through 1000s of yellow lined notebook pages making lists and ideas… now I use Notes. Instant recognition for the task I am doing. same with stickies, calendar and address book. I really like that the address book has the letter tabs on the right, just like my pocket address book from childhood and I can thumb through it on my phone. I like that even though the apps take different shapes and sizes on the mac, iPad and iPhone, they all have a consistency of look so that I know they function alike… I don’t have to think where to put my ideas. In this way, the interface melts away for me, as opposed to a futuristic attempt where I would always be conscious of the interface because it is a new look to do an old task. I think that Apple should put a toggle switch on each app and we can decide for ourselves.

    1. I agree with “ddddd”. Lunch doesn’t come fast enough for me to escape the relentless flood of micro-Arial-on-white documents, and I have to go for a walk down an unpaved trail, smelling the flowers and touching the pines, for an hour or so. That usually holds me for a few hours. But, if I see just one more unsolicited window appear and completely molest MY PRIVATE COMPUTER’S SCREEN (as it circumvents my browser settings), I may throw my computer out the window and start selling hot dogs at the flea market. Seriously!

  2. A designer may choose the elements he/she likes but it does not mean he/she has certain vision to know what the users may or not like. This was in part Steve Jobs success, a taste some of us grew up with.

    I am afraid without SJ the current head designers may start choosing design elements based on what is correct from the designer’s book and OSX or iOS may become irrelevant, boring, instructive and even shallow. From time to time, and more often than not SJ surprise me with a cool factor that was intangible and did not belonged to an specific design or engineering area but may require both. Here is my advice: Loose the book, be generous and surprise us.

  3. The alternative is pure data without context and visual images to give it meaning. Just a bunch of boxes in a box . . . oh yeah, like Microsoft Windows. The visual presentation helps data relationships become obvious. All you have to do is check out the web for new exciting ways to present data in graphic form. Most supercomputers are mostly trying to calculate and display data in a human intuitive way.

  4. Huh? I mean, I just love ‘skeuomorphosim’? Thanks for that intellectually challenging article about nonsensical ‘trivia’. I will now go and watch paint dry for awhile.

    1. And when watching paint dry becomes too boring, we can always retreat here to MDN, where fantasy and wishful thinking animate our lives. Wish I had a boyfriend. or at least a goldfish.

  5. I think the article puts tings in perspective. The brouhaha over skueomorphism is just another tech writer echo-chamber created “problem”
    It’s just design. It evolves and changes with and to reflect the times. Any design element is not necessarily good or bad, it’s always about context.

  6. Skeuomorphism – Skeuomorphophobia. I do not blame you at all for not understanding those words, most of the readers here were Angloeducated and hadn’t had gone to a hellenic (which is the right word for “Greek”) school. Any Greek would have told you about those two words, that absolutely derive from Greece, what they mean: Skeuo-morphο-phobia= Σκευο-μορφo-φοβία , Σκεύος=concrete object, Μορφή=shape form, Φοβία=irrational fear,terror. So Skeuomorphophobia or Σκευομορφοφοβία is the fear of the concrete and shape form objects. If you were Greek you would understand 😉 . Press ⌘+control+D on every word to see Oxford-wikipedia meanings.

  7. Get rid of that horrid Address Book/Contacts skew. The Address Book layout window in Snow Leopard was PERFECT. (Purrrfect?). Straightforward, easy to navigate, etc. The new skewy looks-like-a-real-book mimic is a BIG pain in the ass to use—on ANY divice! It is one thing I absolutely hate in the OS App upgrades.

    1. MacRaven, I’m with you. Address Book in Lion and Mountain Lion is horrible. I hate it. Ran Lion on a test machine, and hated the address book so much I stuck with Snow Leopard.

      Apple please give us back the old address book. Or at least a skinning choice so we can choose for ourselves.

      1. I’ve been pondering writing to Apple’s feedback address about it since day one. It’s the most inefficient app revision I’ve encountered in all my 20+ years of Apple use.

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