Jony Ive’s remade iOS 7: ‘black, white, and flat all over,’ sources say

“As we reported in April, Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive has been leading a thorough overhaul for iOS 7 that focuses on the look and feel of the iOS device software rather than on several new features,” Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac. “Sources have described iOS 7 as ‘black, white, and flat all over.’ This refers to the dropping of heavy textures and the addition of several new black and white user interface elements.”

Gurman reports, “In software design meetings with Apple’s iOS designers, accompanied by Apple’s Human Interface vice president Greg Christie, Ive has shared his reasoning behind his distaste for the texture-heavy (skeuomorphic) interfaces heralded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former iOS chief Scott Forstall. Ive stated that software designs filled with physical metaphors do not stand the test of time, according to a person familiar with the design meetings.”

“Ive has not simply picked areas of the software design to tweak,” Gurman reports. “He has essentially made his mark on every corner of the operating system, according to descriptions from sources, all while mostly keeping the essence of what has made iOS so ubiquitous.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. I’m not familiar with programming, coding or processing. Is there any chance that these changes to “flat” would mean smaller apps? Make it less difficult to program / code? Or reduce the processing power needed to run them?

    1. I can’t see it making a big difference, if any on performance. Especially if the OS is doing more iCloud related things, it would probably offset any performance gains.

    2. Flat just means no textures, shading and possibly, translucency. The look of interface has very little to do with programming (coding) and iOS is already so well optimized that there wouldn’t be a huge difference on processing power.

      From a design point of view, flat would mean less glitz and glamour. With Jony Ive designing both the hardware and the “look” of the interface we should get something that blends them together. Perhaps a look that is also capable of changing color schemes depending on the color of the device you’re using?

      1. Less glitz, but more glamor. There’s nothing at all glamorous about a sixties-era leather-bound address book. iMacs and iPhones are glamorous and so will be iOS7.

        1. The badness that could happen would be the perception by the public – appearing to follow Windows or Google. TO have copied the competitions lack-luster-icons which Apple themselves claimed Samsung cleverly copied. After all, Apple sues Samsung for being influenced by iPhone icon set, yet this may seem a reversal in motion. 😉

        2. I guess we’ll know soon. Until then it’s just a lot of guessing. I just hope it’s not too much of a radical change. Under Steve Jobs, Apple told you what you wanted whether you liked it or not. We’ll see with this makeover if that attitude is still prevalent in Cupertino.

    3. ‘Flat’ means less of the 3D, like the glossy ‘shine’ on app icons, less ‘shadow’ along the edges, and less obvious texturing. Just look at a previous post about this, which highlights how other app icons are being re-designed, like Facebook, for example. I very much doubt that there will be much ‘black and white’, colours are important for definition on screen, but I can see more subtle use of colour, and less of the glossy, ‘enamelled jewel-like’ appearance that has been in use for the last few years.

    4. It should lead to smaller and more efficient Apps. A texture image file can take up kilobytes of space, while a solid color or gradient would only take a few bytes. A texture can also take up megabytes of RAM. (Images are smaller on disk because of image compressions such as JPEG or PNG, but they have to be loaded into RAM and uncompressed to be displayed). Each texture removed would slim an app down a bit, and it many textures removed would add up.

      1. The way Apple has been using gradients is not a simple “few bytes” — They tend to use oblate spheroids and apply the gradient as a lighting effect atop a texture (not a texture like leather, but a texture of a tessellation). These are rendered as graphic files at both retina and non-retina resolutions. While the hardware Sir Ive has designed thus far doesn’t incorporate such gradients on it’s own, the effect of light falling across the aluminum surfaces does produce a gradient effect.

        We’ll see what they come up with. I, personally, think people expect more color in an interface on a “millions of colors” display.

        1. A simple gradient does only take a few bytes. A minimalist flat design does not require photo realistic elliptical lighting over tessellated textures on every surface.

    5. The real purpose of the “black, white, and flat all over” design is so that Apple can go back to the monochrome screen. Saves power, lower production cost, doesn’t distract you while you are concentrating on your tasks. Game playing will be quicker – no distracting realism, etc…

      Can’t wait!!!


      I keep getting this niggling feeling about the original iMac. Mmmmm lovely, aye?


        1. Back in time we travel to a fashion where “less is more”, this is not architecture, this is STATE OF THE ART computing, CUTTING EDGE technology, a showcase on retina screen – heavens forbid?

        2. Excellent point.

          Black, flat and linear on a retina screen? What a waste.

          We should be moving in the opposite direction to skeuomorphic next-gen — 3D, animations, sound …

        3. you are mistaken as to the author of the original quote:

          “Less is more”, a phrase from the 1855 poem “Andrea del Sarto, called ‘The Faultless Painter'” by Robert Browning
          The phrase was adopted by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a precept for minimalist design

        4. who adopted it these philosophies
          from the Japanese centuries before

          art is constantly being influenced as it is the biggest Tupperware party going

          History is written by those in power.

      1. “Less is more” is a concept of creativity whereby extravagance is removed in order to accentuate vital elements.

        Reducing color bit depth to the dire retrograde 2-bit level is NOT ‘less is more’. It is a ‘LIVE IN THE STONE AGE’ regression or art to slamming one rock with another. It is THE DOT. Is the dot there? Or is the dot NOT there. IOW: You can’t get more BORING unless you destroy all of existence, reducing everything to black on black.

        I’m going to vomit.

        Could this be Jony Ive’s subconscious cry for help?

        1. you are mistaken as to the original quote:

          “Less is more”, a phrase from the 1855 poem “Andrea del Sarto, called ‘The Faultless Painter'” by Robert Browning
          The phrase was adopted by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a precept for minimalist design.

        2. You’re replying to the wrong post botvinnik. I’m not disputing your source. I’m elaborating upon the actual point of the quote, and I hold by my explanation. What I stated applies precisely to architecture and any other form or art.

          Further elaboration of my point: How about well all dress in funeral clothing for the rest of our lives while living in Beijing. Black on brown forever.

          This thread is too disturbing; Extremely NOT Apple. I’m outta here. Sorry for the barf on the floor.

        3. Could Jony fumble the ball ?

          In deed its possible and quite likely to happen.

          1st Siri
          2nd Maps
          3rd iOS

          The timing could be totally wrong for Apple while it remains in legal issues over so many innovations they developed…
          why abandon your beliefs? Because Apple is a Risk taker. Uhmmm laughable. They are a calculated well directed gambler of the industry.

          Better yet, why go against what the creator imposed initially.
          Steve Jobs, founder and resurrected leader; the visionary set forth the look and laws that govern iOS – lets now re-write what the creator did wrong ? Why not, Steve appointed Ives to design right?

          Jony has his own secret man cave to toy and mess with materials as he wishes… “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.” – Steve Jobs

          Some designers have huge egos… I see Ives not the case but thats not to say he is not capable of going Ninja.
          No Steve, could mean, Ives becomes the one to play God.
          And perhaps it started by manipulating Cook to lead Forstall to the door. Power struggles shall reflect in the OS.

      2. Less is more, to me that statement never makes sense. Less is better, does make sense. When one has less they have more, I say more of what; very illogical.

    1. My OS is paranoid to flat and it remembers Aqua was the birth of OSX.
      3D and realism ignited the path for Apples re-birth. It excited us all. iOS merely was a spin off of OSX, yet Ives wants to return a mobile OS “visually” back to the days of Nokia.

      If Ives doesn’t handle this perfectly right, the fiascos of Maps and the promises of Siri beta will look like NOTHING compared to the circumcision of the core services to mundane retro appearance that the competition already chose.

      Where is Apples’ leadership?
      Where is the thinking different and showcasing technical innovations? Where is the holographical augmented UI?
      Is Apple admitting, Windows did something right?

      We travel back into time…

      Back we go… Retro design of the early 70s, graphics of Donkey Kong, due to the limit of colour depth built into POKE 3680: 0, 255 when a pixel had a 8 bit register.

      Back to the time where silkscreen could not reproduce tonal changes due to technology it lacked in fine detail and photo reproduction.

      Back to a time when design cleansing of like that of the Bauhaus ara, challenged the period of Realism.

      Art is fashion. Design is communication. Simplification in a complex world is healthy but taste is in the eye of the beholder. Colours, Shapes, Design is a subjective taste.

      Careful Ives. Your natural “spider senses” in design sensitivity point responsibility to simplification, the trouble is, your competition is NOW leading you astray.


      iOS is so simple already.
      Its nothing more then a live directory; direct access straight to the apps installed. These apps are decorative as there are millions of apps. Notifications typically where text on a dark blue pop-up. Dumbing them down stripes the individual identity differentiating from other apps of similar purposes.

      What shade of blue has ownership over another app?

      Will colours define the category?
      Anything dealing with banking to a basic calculator shall be set on orange?

      Is this right? Does it better our experiences as users?

      Look at the core apps and the dull boring state which primary colours on flat silhouettes provide. Okay, the services core to the phone would better suit the OS if set in black, grey or white – acting as that quiet Butler in the background ready to serve at any time. And yet, Siri needs virtually no graphics, other than her microphone waiting and listening to our requests. Compare Siri to Google Glass and its translucent Bauhaus selectable flat silhouetted interface… and tell me… is this where Apple hopes to be.

  2. Apple’s operating systems have always had a somewhat “toy-ish” look and feel. By that I mean visually complex in an unnecessary way. For example, the shape of the waste basket and the general operation of the icon. To land a file in it, one has to hit either the tapered shape of the basket, or the title below it. With a very fast cursor this is sometimes difficult to do quickly. If “black, white, and flat” means a more useable icon that’s easier to select with a cursor then I’m all for it. I can also do without the somewhat “toy-ish” look of the OS. It doesn’t translate well to today’s smaller icons used on smaller, higher resolution screens.

    We’ll just have to wait and see, and try to keep our fear of change in check. I have a great deal of faith in Jonny Ive, but even he is capable of a flop once in a while. If the new look isn’t to everyone’s liking I’m sure Apple will fix it quickly, unlike Microsoft’s aggravating “Ribbon”.

    1. Say what you will about OS X’s look and feel, it is very consistent for the most part. Type isn’t cramped, icons have enough space around them, backgrounds are subtlety shaded for lists and there’s a visual hierarchy that doesn’t require a tutorial to use.

      My fear with everything completely flat, there’s a loss of visual hierarchy. Look at the newest version of Office for a great example of awful UI design. They even hide it from their site…I couldn’t find any clear screenshots showing the whole thing.

      Also, command+delete solves you trash can problem along with auto-hide on the dock.

      1. The Apple product whos interface breaks the sensible visual hierarchy is Apple TV. Levels of interface go up and down vertically in an inconsistent manner. Its easy enough to get used to them, but its easy enough to get used to any bad interface, Apple usually does better.

        I would like an Ive update of the Apple TV interface (and Apple TV apps please!).

        1. IMO Apple TV is a great design. My 2 year old niece can use it! The buttons on the remote can be hit and miss because of the small size compounded with its blended profile

      2. Adobe did the same, losing the visual indicators and settling for White Letters on a coloured tile. Boring and reverse from the intuitive practices.

        Ai (lower case ‘i’ for Illustrator, emphasis on Adobe?)
        Ps (lower case “s” for shop what was one word Photoshop?)
        ID (small cap on “D” again on a one word Indesign?)

        Boring and stupid yet this is Apples direction too?
        Its not good design Ives. Better you do well….

        Ives admits to his influences in design (Dieter Rams). Rather than strive to set principles and establish his own philosophies he pulls from the past and alters as any other designer does. Go with Trends place subtle marks as if he created something new.

        if not we could never propel forward, chained to re-inventing the past

        1) Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.

        2) Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.

        3) Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

        4) Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

        5) Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

        6) Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

        7) Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

        8) Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

        9) Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

        10) Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

        I and many others could disagree that the iPhone does not fit the 10 principles Rams set out. Design and Art are subjective.
        iPhone lives off fashion, thought its valued design is lasting it really made its mark and holds true as a fashionable status symbol to own a Apple iPhone (7). Honest, Siri is still in Beta, there are technologies inside iPhone that might be of more value then the casing it sits in (6). Anyone else wish to challenge the 10 principles be my guest. I am just attempting to express design is subjective and means something different to everyone. And not destroy or lower the beauty which iPhone is… merely to make a tiny point.

    2. OS X has moved steadily to less and less eye-popping color (remember the “lickable” buttons of OS X 10.1?) and more and more into a flatter, simpler interface. Sounds like iOS is just following the same path.

      This is one area, though, that all of the leaks, opinions, etc. won’t even start to tell the story. We’ll just have to see it to really understand what Ivy has done.

  3. “iOS 7 that focuses on the look and feel of the iOS device software rather than on several new features,”

    Let’s see now. Get thousands of software designers together once a year and give them no new features?

    Something fishy here.

  4. I’m going to withhold judgement until I see it and use it. I may think I won’t like it but could be wrong. I am in favor of color though, it aids in fast recognition of things, so I don’t know.

    1. please try:

      Windows 8 and bask in all its glorious primary tonnes
      then try
      Android using Samsung and look closely to the lack of details

      this might prepare you for what we hope Ives will better, yet the concern is how it will be perceived over all… as a copy of the competition or an improvement over all?

      1. It’s an accessibility thing that can reduce eyestrain. I use it myself sometimes, e.g. to read websites that think small gray text on black background is a good idea.

        And that’s still reversing colours, not stripping it all out.

  5. Black and White and Flat all over? Are you freaking serious? Thats beyond retro, thats back to the stone age. Why don’t they just report that Jony is pushing for CLI and green text all over.

  6. “Sources say that over the past few months, Apple has re-architected iOS 7′s new interface several times, so until the new software is announced at WWDC, interface elements could dramatically change from what Apple has been testing internally in recent weeks.”

    Translation: no one spoke to us; we’re pulling this out of our collective asses; but we have a way out when IOS7 shows up and it’s still in colour.

  7. IMHO, Jonny Ive is a huge problem at Apple. The role of industrial design at Apple is now out of balance. At least when Steve Jobs was running Apple, with Scott Forestall, there was a buffer to keep Ive in check. It is because of Ive’s industrial design that the new iMac’s as so thin that the glass is glued in place. No longer can the user upgrade the RAM or replace the hard drive. Because of the sleek design the optical drive is now external. They never asked the consumer what they wanted they TOLD us what we wanted. Because of Ive’s industrial design considerations production of future iPhone products have been delayed because the manufacturing is so difficult that the yield rate was unacceptable.

    Apple has always pushed the envelope on industrial design. But with Tim Cook at the helm (without Jobs), there is a serious lack of balance and practicality. I will reserve judgement on IOS 7 until I see it.

    1. Yeah, right. Cause when Steve was running the show all we did was rave about his awesome balance and practicality. Nobody ever had any complaints of function being sacrificed in the name of form.

    2. The RAM is upgradable in the 27″ iMac so that has nothing to do with the thin design. And can you provide a source for the optical drive being removed just to make the device thinner? Apple removed the floppy drive on the original iMac which had nothing to do with design. Seeing the optical drive removed on the rMBP should have given people a clue on Apple’s thoughts about the future of internal optical drives. Plus for all w know Apple had data that showed optical drive failures being the cause of most repairs. We don’t know but to assume the optical drive was removed just so Jony could have a thin design is absurd.

    3. I think you got it wrong. The elimination of optical drive is just one in the long list of hardware features that got axed. Many people interpreted these eliminated features as being caused by the industrial design considerations (whether driven by Ive or Jobs), but in reality, they all represent the same relentless philosophy that Apple has had since beginning.

      Fifteen years ago, Steve eliminated the floppy disk from the iMac. This is when it all started, and it kept going: elimination of analogue modem from all Macs; elimination of VGA port; then ADB port; then DVI port; then separate audio in / out ports; then FW400 port; the replaceable battery; then the expresscard slot; then the remote control for Macs with displays…

      Apple’s philosophy was always to provide the most complete set of features that will be used by no less than 95% of all users. If a hardware feature is NOT used by the majority of those who buy the device, that feature is gone. This makes total sense; why would a sizeable number of users pay for a feature they never use, thereby subsidising the price of the component for those who do use it. I don’t want my Mac to have Expresscard slot, FW400, remote, analogue modem, optical drive. These drive up the cost of my machine, and even when I did have them all, I never used any one of them.

      None of this is a sudden change forced by an out-of-ballance Ive. It is a continuation of Jobs’s legacy going back at least 15 years.

      1. I would agree with you if I viewed the iMac and a media consumption machine. If you use an iMac to serve music or videos you probably do not care about an internal optical drive. If you are in the business of media creation such as a photographer or graphic artist, you might view an internal optical drive as I do.

        Keep in mind that the iMac is the defacto production Mac as the Mac towers are wayyyyyyy overdue on a refresh. So overdue that I would not consider plunking down money on the current offering of Power PC.

    4. Apple has always forced people into the newest and most relevant technology. Remember when the MacBook Air had no optical drive? *gasp* and when they removed firewire ports? *shudder* no one missed those things. Optical media is a relic of the past and user upgradable components are unnecessary now. It’s time to let go and move forward. Or get a Dell.

      1. There is a solid reason that I do not own a MBA. It does not suit my needs. The only reason that user upgradable components are not necessary is because they are now impossible. I’ll pass on the Dell. An iMac still works for me, even with an external optical drive. However, I do know of a former loyal Mac guy who just had a Hackintosh built because the Mac OS running on his Window’s machine is faster and cheaper than the Mac OS running on a PowerMac. I also know of a few video guys who switched over to the dark side because of an effective Mac solution.

    5. Apple has all kinds of feedback on people not needing the optical drive. They get it from visits with customers; they get it from the Genius bar folks having a steadily decreasing number of questions related to the optical drive; they get it from a lack of repair issues in AppleCare.

      There are many environments where having an optical device was a real problem, too: Most schools have roughly zero need for every single computer to have an optical device – It’s both a source of uncontrolled input into the device and potential leak of information out of the device (yes, a USB thumb drive works well, but a CD passes unseen through a metal detector). That’s why there are system preferences about writing to optical media. And many laptop customers gave clear feedback to Apple that the tradeoff in weight was more important to them than having a rarely used drive sitting there all the time.

      1. So happens that I am a teacher at a publicly run tech school. I recently ordered and received 24 new iMac’s. I also received 24 external optical drives, one for each workstation. I teach Commercial Photography with a heavy dose of Adobe Photoshop. I justify my existence by my job placement rate. If I can’t place my students in jobs I cease to exist. I can hear the employers screaming bloody murder if my students did not know how to burn a CD or DVD. So where do you get your information about schools?

  8. I hope they trash the grey text on a white background. And while I’m at it, make minor roads on Maps 10 times darker. In bright light I can’t see them at all.

    1. Pet peeve of mine, as well. Text hard to read. Yes, make minor roads darker!

      Also in Maps, the road names remain the same small size as you zoom in, not so with Google Maps. Sorry to say …

  9. I can’t wait to use the new modern streamlined iOS interface.

    “Ive stated that software designs filled with physical metaphors do not stand the test of time.”

    Like clicking a floppy disk icon to save in Word. I bet that confuses the hell out of a most users younger than 20.

  10. Apple’s hardware is unbeatable. So we must like Ive’s taste somewhat. I’m a cartoonist, so I like color, and I hate dull. But I haven’t seen the next OS so will have absolutely no opinion until I do. I may love it. I may hate it. It may be an acquired taste.

  11. I only want to add that small buttons on small (phone) screens suck. I can’t tell you how frustrating tiny volume sliders and buttons are when you are in a hurry.

  12. From the article…

    “According to this person, Ive also shared that because iOS’s current applications have several differing designs, Apple’s users could become confused.

    For example, the current yellow notepad-inspired Notes app contrasts significantly from the silver-textured Maps, blue and white Mail, and casino-inspired Game Center apps.”

    Anyone here confused by the yellow notes, silver maps, blue/white e-mail and casino green Game Center?

    Confused?! I’m sorry but you’d have to be near brain dead if THAT confuses you!

  13. I really doubt this is where iOS is headed. Just look at Windows Metro for a taste of what flat looks like. Its like stepping back in time to when 3D could not be rendered. Also, black and white would be wholesale rejected by users that are very used to full color 3D rendered objects. Imagine a Shades of gray iOS and then you launch into a full color 3d app or game! The contrasts would be horrible between the OS and the apps! This is not going to happen!

    I see the future moving more towards real 3D display rather than flat. Anyone out there looking for a black and white non 3D big screen TV? Didn’t think so!

    1. Black and white? NO

      3D? You can count me on the “Don’t want it” list. More of a gimmick that detracts, rather than enhances good filmmaking.

  14. “Re-Architected”? Did you fail English in Journalism College Mr. Writer?

    Architect is not a verb & re-architected is not a word. Try “redesigned”. Dullard.

  15. Careful Johnny! Once you start to ‘tinker’, ‘alter’ and ‘change’ you run the risk of ‘alienating’ the comsumer who purchases products that are ‘uniquely’ stamped as being ‘Apple’ and not some ‘simplifified aberration’ of someone else’s individual taste or style.

  16. My POV: Either someone is going to GREAT lengths to scam the tech journalists, OR, I am not going to be happy when I see iOS 7. Flat, Windows 8 tile philosophy CRAP does not remotely enthuse my techno lust. I PRAY that Ive has not fracked this up.

    It’s long-overdue 3D GUI design or bust for me. 2D GUI elements in 2-bit color may be cute for steampunk fans, but NOT for me! DAMMIT!

    Don’t disappoint me Jony! I know what you’re capable of creating. Don’t go all retro and minimalist please!

    1. Um, none of these rumors claimed Apple was going to use Microsoft’s tile interface. In fact this article specifically said the grid of icons would remain. And anyone with a brain would know that black and white is referring to backgrounds and fonts not the color of icons. Basically what Apple is doing Is moving to where many 3rd party apps have already gone.

  17. Sounds butt-ugly to me and that’s a good thing. While I love how fantastic my iPhone works, it only works this way when I touch the screen the right way. I hate touch screens and if this new iOS7 is as ugly as I think it’s going to be, I’m going back to blackberry with their real keyboard when its time for a new phone.

    Yes, I know it’s a step down so don’t flame me. I love Apple and in fact, I just ordered a new 2013 MBP. My dream phone is an Apple made phone with iOS6 and a real physical keyboard exactly like what is on the blackberry. This phone would have a full size screen and you’d have to slide the screen up in order to expose the keyboard underneath (Blackberry has 1 phone that I am aware of that works this way. You don’t have to turn the phone sideways to type.)

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