Why this whole iOS ‘Flat Design’ thing is being blown out of proportion

“Over the last few weeks, much has been said about Jony Ive, Apple’s head of design, taking over iOS 7 after Scott Forstall was kicked out of the company late last year,” Alex Jordan writes for iSource. “Many people are speculating and claiming that a new “flatter” look will be introduced to iOS, which is admittedly starting to show it’s aesthetic age. However, some mockups have gone really flat. Flat, flat, flat. I don’t think this will be the case.”

“When someone picks up an iOS device, they expect it to look and feel a certain way. Why? A half decade of usage and familiarity,” Jordan writes. “The very same reason that there really hasn’t been a drastic overhaul to the windowing file system on desktop computers. You have files, folders, and a desktop to play in. If you do mess with this UI scheme, as Microsoft did when they introduced Windows 8, you get lackluster response. Don’t expect iOS to see a drastic new way of interaction”

Jordan writes, “I would expect Jony Ive’s taste to deeply influence the new batch of software that will undoubtedly be shown off at this year’s WWDC. Don’t expect it to be devoid of whimsy, and certainly do not expect it to be flat sterile, and something radically different. Just a more refined, toned down look, much like the company’s hardware offerings.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Almost flat: The future of iOS design? – May 15, 2013
Jony Ive preps ‘very, very flat,’ potentially unsettling UI for Apple’s new iOS 7 – April 29, 2013
Apple in deadline crunch mode for WWDC as Jony Ive’s team works on ‘deForstallization’ of iOS 7 – May 1, 2013
Apple’s Jony Ive seen risking iOS 7 delay on sweeping software overhaul; Mac team enlisted to help – May 1, 2013
Jony Ive preps ‘very, very flat,’ potentially unsettling UI for Apple’s new iOS 7 – April 29, 2013
Usage logs begin reporting hits from new Apple iPhone hardware and iOS 7 – April 15, 2013
Jony Ive to usher in big changes in iOS 7 with system-wide UI overhaul – April 3, 2013


  1. I like Jony. A lot. But, I’ve developed concerns about his obsession with “thin” – all the mobile gadgets are thin enough – and so is the iMac which, for reasons known only to Jony had to be made to only look thin when viewed via Apple’s ads. So, Jony… get on with making the devices better. They are all thin enough!

    1. The latest iMac is thinner in real life, not just in the ads, but at the edges. It’s thicker in the middle which is what you’d expect. Jony’s reason is perfectly obvious, to anyone who actually bothers to think about it; modern components are smaller, or less bulky, and can be made to run cooler, plus cooling via convection is better understood, so a computer can be made much thinner at the edges, where there are no important components involved in computing, leaving the thicker center-bottom for the mother-board, storage, etc.
      A thinner machine uses much less material in its construction, too, thus being less wasteful of resources, and cheaper to manufacture.
      All of this should be self-evident, they are reasons that any competent industrial designer should have as top of the list when creating a new design. Jony Ive is more than competent, he’s one of the very finest industrial designers of his generation.
      Few others would travel to Japan to study swordsmithing with a top Japanese smith, in order to see how metal behaves when being extensively worked.

      1. And few designers have the opportunity to do as he. They can only read about it. Ives is not a one man band, he like jobs has a vision, there was evidence for a thinner iMac long ago. ask why it took this long?

        Back in 2008-9, Samsung lead the industry on thinner televisions with its LCD 5-Series, though out Asia. These tvs took a long journey to appear on American soil. 2010 the 6 series and 7 series started to emerge – but again not in timely fashion here.

        One can easily imagine the iMac mini being mounted to the back of a 5-Series – yes, even back in 2008. But why did this move take Apple so long? Jony’s design could pre-date 2005, hoping one day process techniques would exist to enable production.

        The true reason is in the process and quality Apple strives for. The glass mounting process was not worked out then, and companies like Samsung were not producing with glass. Nor was the yield enough on the number of passing results. Even on launch of iMac, the production was risky – only in the past month have we learnt the numbers are up and things are going well for iMac. Things are ramped up – and meeting delivery.

        Again, Jonys vision for thinner is consistent and limited to technology, as techniques and processes develop, Jony achieves his initial plans. Sometimes Apples drive for technology can assist industries to also strive for change. This is how Apple is effecting the world now. Demanding higher quality, newer methods, and enriching the products for the better… for us.

        Design requires patients, a good team of engineers, and the passion to seek new alternatives.

    2. All designers, allow themselves to be inspired by other designs and designers who came before them. Jony Ives is a talented designer with an amazing team of other talented people – they are no different other then extremely focused backed by the passion and soul embedded by the dna which makes up Apple. The team taps into what feels right perhaps unaware of the history that it draws on and inspired by design and philosophy. Its this mix of influences and thinking being used like tools that moulded difference that is purposed for the birth for something new.

      Similar is Apples products. Research and innovation with the latest technologies is a process to discover what unique ways its software can be harvested and tap into new niche markets – taming its hardware to deliver the goods. These two disciplines are rather a like. Where Apple strives to be the simplest computing experience to all users. Design seen as Jony’s reflects the same. Reduce to the simplest of forms yet not lose the natural and intuitive functionality which a product can display to a user. Thin, small, compact, elegant, rich, fast, smooth, powerful, easy, clean and flat: all these descriptions have always been been the design goal and shall evoke the Apple perspective. No design is ever complete, its continually evolving and refining its self. As is there no one answer but choices. If the design objective aims to be thinner yet, the challenge is on the engineers not on the frame of the design – that can be compromised for yet another round of innovations under-the-hood.

    3. I can’t believe people actually think the design goal for the new iMac was a 5mm edge, everything else be dammed. How ridiculous. That thin edge was a consequence of the decision to remove the optical drive and changes to the display lamination (which reduced screen reflection).

    1. Redesign is a wonderful thing as applied to tech interfaces, fashion, movies, books and cars, etc. Sure, I’m neglecting many other industries, as well.

      That said, and think about it for a moment — do we advocate every six years for the redesign of clouds, barn swallows, pine trees, sunsets, butterflies, waterfalls. frying bacon — et al?

      Of course not.

      The problem with this debate is the industry for change is on a roller coaster update paradigm influenced by the minority over the majority.

    1. one can look and wonder should function follow form?

      should a phone look as though what it is used for?

      computers have blurred those lines of design philosophy, its not a tv yet has a monitor, its not a typewriter yet has a keyboard

      a phone with a virtual keyboard and web browser and music player — Apple brought this to us – it builds on the best of smartphones of the day and leapfrogged the industry

      Apples move was copied by the entire industry – the changed the world yet again, first the UI for computers, secondly with the simpleness of iOS and Siri to one day be truly the UI with intelligent assistant for computing

      for Siri to come out of beta and really shine — would be the wax polish on Apple

    1. It might be true, because people write dozens of articles, confirmations and denials, opinion pieces and counter-pieces about something that was never announced or confirmed in any way.

      (I mean, of course, the redesign might happen, but, for now, there is nothing to discuss.)

    2. I am actually glad that Jony won’t be removing skeuastephenopolous or whatever it’s called. I looked it up on Wiki, and it means having an interface similar to real life. That is why Windows and Android fails. They look too much like PC operating systems. The apps in iPhone try to look similar to appliances you use in real life.

    3. Idea! The new iOS with sport a skeuomorphic design that changes as you’re looking at it into a flatter design. And since no one wants to describe their design as “flat” Apple will call the new design “metamorphic” — that’ll keep the vocabulary-challenged authors writing about it for the next 5 years!

      1. its not fresh – its retro – windows is

        apples’ term flat is not graphical but more to due with unifying the two OSes… compressing them flatter

    1. Jony speaks eloquently and fair, with passion and purpose; he is a designer after all – tell me he is not arrogant?

      Apple hires type-A personalities to work with other type-A’s. Jobs himself was one… Scotty fit perfectly with Apple.

      Yes, where is he now?

  2. We’re hoping for a “Carl Levin” theme:

    Droopy on the sides.
    White comb-over on top.
    Angry red tinge around the center.
    Volume control that only offers loud.
    Silence switch that doesn’t work.
    Call-waiting tone of “Just answer the question!”

  3. Take a look at the Apple iOS Passbook App with the flat dark grey icon bright color tickets/gift cards/etc. open App & background is white with colorful accents.

    Maybe THIS is what Jony Ive is planning..?

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