How Jony Ive’s Apple iOS 7 hinders the future of design or something

“Apple’s attack on skeuomorphism — the design ornamentation that has been likened to a ‘nasty intestinal disease you might get in the tropics’ (and perhaps even worse, to a ‘new Comic Sans’) — has finally become a colorful reality with Jony Ive’s unveiling of the new, flat iOS 7 interface,” John Maeda writes for Wired. “Much of the commentary approves of the changes to iOS 7, arguing that because skeuomorphism teaches by analogy, and an entire generation of users have now become familiar with the touchscreen interface, it’s time to remove the ‘training wheels’ — we no longer need skeuomorphism’s solution to a problem we no longer have.”

“The word ‘radical’ was even tossed around in a few notable places, suggesting that design battles around re-flattening interfaces and smoothing out shadows actually advance the future of technology and design in the digital age,” Maeda writes. “But I think limiting our discussion to what essentially boils down to a ‘do these pixels make me look fat’ question is a waste of energy. Instead, design should boldly go where no user or interface has gone before. More than ever, technology constraints have disappeared, and designers have their version of the mythical perpetual motion machine — a new medium where pixels are infinitely available and infinitely malleable. We should focus on setting them free.”

Maeda writes, “We’ll never get there, though, if we stick to the dangerously reductionist, technology-usability centric view of design that surfaced in the discussions about flat design versus skeuomorphism (and continues to surface in the comments about iOS 7)… Apple and other leaders in the design space should be thinking like the designers who are imagining a complete gesture-based operating system across an array of small and large display systems (like at Oblong).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: While it makes for an eye-catching headline, Jony Ive’s Apple iOS 7 does not “hinder the future of design.”

We like headlines that are supported by facts or at least a well-designed premise. A discussion about flat design versus skeuomorphism isn’t a black hole that consumes everything, including “the future of design.”

Maeda’s basic point seems to be that, “In a hands-free, ‘eyes-free’ interface world,” Apple should be working on new interfaces. Who says they aren’t?

72 Comments

      1. Neurologist,

        What’s it like to be mentally retarded?

        I think that would be a great option and agree with macbart. Myself, as well as others I know often wish we could keep certain design options on our Mac’s as well. What was the old saying years ago, “What’s the point of having a personal computer if you don’t personalize it?”

        1. iOS 7 is not just a “skin.” I’m using it right now. You could make the icons look “old,” I suppose, but the OS changes things in radical ways beyond the just the mere look of things.

          1. That’s what people don’t get. iOS7 is not just about the redesigned app icons. It’s also about how those icons interact with other features of the operating system like luminescence and dynamic perspective. Those features, in my opinion, are a well thought out counter balance to the flat icon designs. I think iOS7 is flipping awesome. I for one like a girl that looks great without a lot of makeup and has something to offer below the skin. iOS7 is that girl.

      2. The more i look at the simplified icons, the less I like them. Everything looks washed out. Nothing pops. No clear border between controls and content. Horrid font, effeminate colors.

        I like the features, but am already disenchanted with the new look.

        1. Turning clearly recognizable buttons into free floating text labels is an IDIOTIC MOVE!

          You can no longer look at a screen and know what app you are in, because Every screen looks the same, merging all elements of the page on a white background into a mess.

          Sorry Jonny, I had respect for your hardware designs, but you completely FUCKED UP iOS.

          Besides as being ugly, tasteless and incoherent.

          1. Agree. Jony should stick to hardware design.

            He has destroyed Steve’s artistic vision and left us with a bland look everyone else has been using for some time now.

          2. Graphically speaking, Ives follows his principles which govern him on what good design is. UI design is far more then sterilizing and flattening. As the beauty still remains under the hood. Apple is known for simplicity of use and intuitive learning curve. iOS 7 graphically does nothing beneficial here for the user.
            I wouldn’t go so far to say, iOS 7 is totally f__ed up.

            Yet the major fail here is Apple no longer differentiates itself from the crowd. It copies the visual language of its competitors.

            There is a powerful processor within these iDevices. Dumbing down the visual functionality neither showcases the technology nor improves the way the technology is to be used. It has not bettered the UI experience nor made it any more interesting also.

            1. Couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph.

              No one is left at Apple to say “NO” to the stupid ideas. Most of the new features of iOS 7 are welcome, and long over due. But the Windows Phone iOS 7 look is bland, boring, and lacks the attention to details that Apple is known for. Why have a retina screen to view two-color graphics? The GUI and graphics elements should show off the screens capabilities. The new look could be done on a color e-ink Kindle.

        2. I agree with you Mike.

          The flattening of the graphics did not improve usability.
          Notice, words are heavily scattered about iOS 7 where icons and symbols once presented universal clarity. Wait for iOS to appear in different languages.

          The flattening of the graphics have not made iOS more intuitive or anymore simpler to use. Yet, let that judgement be a personal one as it gets into the hands of more people.
          You will notice irresponsible, poor choices of the slim sans serif face being placed on light coloured back grounds, this makes for more difficult reading.

          Balance, spacing, weight, use of lines and silhouettes, text and colour – where in attempt to homogenize, simplify and cleanse iOS 6, however, in the end, regarding the look and styling Ives compliments the choices of Apples Competitors. Straight to the point – it looks like OS 10 from Blackberry, though it may not function as so. Look at the Camera icon; its too busy too detailed – it does nto feel the same as iCloud or symbols look more like Android than before due to the cleaner simpler look. How embarrassing is that, to actually think the same or agree that Samsung or Google or Windows took the lead in stylizing their OS better than Apple. IS Apple a trend setter? Or is Apple a fashion follower? Does Apple innovate on theories and design athletics or adopt the past?

          Nothing is benefited to the user from the graphic changes that Ives has done. Again, under the hood, wonderful things have been done. So why is so much emphasis been granted to Ives UI position and his taste in design. Design is subjective. I too, am extremely disenchanted. Apple could have truly taken things up a notch – gave far more of an effort. But no. Flat, screen back, translucency, what we get is Sterilized ‘Helveticizied’ homogenized look with the competitions efforts. All in all, the direction where Jony Ives places Apple in – actually weakens iOS from being different. The changes become rather pointless. Swipe to accept a call? Thats no improvement nor is it easier then a touch. Buttons require to be larger to accommodate size the words take up. Why, all done in text? Why words over the use of universal symbols. Icon driven or language. And sorry, it looks boring, it looks copied, it doesn’t look fresh or inspiring. I have seen the look for over 30 years.

          But the bigger fail here is that Ives doesn’t improve usability.
          It is even said that people are re-learning things. Enjoying the new functions is different. Apple, “Thinking Different” has not being applied. Jony realizes history and principles of design – a formula that all the other companies use also to obtain what the past dictates is good design; rather than confidently accept his true, honest, original and personal definition as to what makes good design.

          I am not saying iOS 7 is not good… I am saying the visual changes does not make it better. It does not inspire or challenge or define that Apple remains on the leading edge. It says, we goofed up again, like Maps. Like Siri, we are not perfect, we no longer know what we are doing. We need to copy.

            1. “iOS 7, graphically sucks.”

              Totally agree.

              Again, step backwards to the 1930s and the swiss school of graphic design in the 1970s.

              The look is a step back, while the functionality is a step forward.

    1. I disagree. Apple has always had a whimsical design quality. While the whole has been quite good, there were some things that got close to being cute, particularly after Forstall’s influence grew. The new icons are certainly whimsical as well, but just a different overall design language, notably more minimal. Some are overly cute, but this is not really a departure for Apple. Same ethic, different perspective, in my opinion.

      This is just the first step in Ive’s new vision for interface design at Apple. He had to go wholly with his visual language.

      This kind of transformation was going to happen as Jobs influence on the design language disappears. Ive being completely true to his own vision was necessary, which is what Jobs meant when he said he didn’t want Apple to wonder what he would have done. However, Jobs’ thinking (the Apple DNA) is all over this in the underlying ethic and sensibility – simple, elegant, and usable.

    2. Macbart, are you really so insecure in your ability to navigate an icon-based OS that you have to have highly detailed icons, visually representing a meatspace object, in order to find whichever app you need?
      Have you not noticed that warning and other signs have, for many years, used simple, clear, easy to understand graphics and icons, in order for people to be able to grasp their meaning clearly and with minimum risk of misunderstanding?
      Are you a child, who needs highly-detailed, childish pictures, or are you an educated adult, able to parse the meaning of a simple, clear icon or graphic in the minimum amount of time, with minimum confusion?

      1. “Insecure” and a “child”

        Rorschach, you may be right. After 30+ years as a program designer and programmer on seven operating systems, a sometimes Apple Certified Developer and a Mac user since 1984, I must yield to your compelling, tightly-reasoned arguments.

        1. Maeda chooses to ignore the reality of Apple designing a mobile OS which can be used on actual, existing physical hardware.

          He complains that Apple should be developing gesture-based OS. I believe Apple has been granted several patents involving gesture-based systems. The problem is that gesture-based does not really fit with using a mobile device, which is held a mere several inches from your face and which is very easily controlled by one hand. Gestures just don’t make sense on an iPhone.

          Now move to an AppleTV or even an iMac and the story changes. Gestures may work very well in such a scenario, but Apple is not about to release such an OS until it has the technology rock-solid, INCLUDING THE HARDWARE SIDE.

      2. What made replicating meat space objects so fun when it was done well (gamecenter and find my friends excluded), is that the ornamentation caused me great delight because it was fun and whimsical. Like the totally unneeded tape deck in podcasts that though useless was way more fun to look at than a simple cruciform progress slider.

        But I’m willing to give Jony the benefit of the doubt on this. On first glance the fonts are too narrow the icons too two-dimensional and pastel colored. But I LOVE the translucent panels and sorely miss the linen and leather background textures (though not the stitching).

    3. Excellent point.

      I too prefer the “classic” look and how hard would it be for Apple to allow users an option to choose between “modern” and “classic” look?

      We’re only talking about pixel picture icons the same size with two radically different looks. Some prefer modern stick figure icons to Rembrandt and Da Vinci paintings. Whatever your preference — offer both, everyone wins.

      My friends on the left can burn the wood, rip the felt and just say no to leather. After that is out of their system, they can party at Starbucks, tweet each other and life is good. Meanwhile, traditionalists like myself would continue to enjoy Steve’s groundbreaking design that debuted with OSX and not be late for Sunday school.

      We have gorgeous retina displays that abandoned the rich, lushly illustrated icons that Steve was personally responsible for reduced to linear outlines. I’ll take Steve’s artistic vision over Ive any day of the week. Sorry, Jony.

      Visually, Apple now looks like the rest of the crop including Windows and Android. They have abandoned their signature and distinctive look for me-too follow the pack design.

      ‘Hinder the future of design’ may be not, but certainly does not advance design. The new look is throwback minimalist design, all been done before in the last century. Some prefer it, some don’t.

      “Classic” option button, Apple. You can do it.

      1. I agree – and I fear OSX will adopt similar iOS iconology.

        Compare game centre OLD to NEW… old wins hands down.

        I would not need a classic button to choice from. I prefer Apple to try again here. Better the UI experience, improve the intuitiveness, unify the look throughout. Jony has not done so. This attempt is irresponsible immature and hideous. Thank goodness it is not yet finalized.

        Such a classy phone running such a pre-schoolers UI.
        Does not fit well.

        Find Sid Mead to create a UI.

    4. Personally I’m glad green felt and corinthian leather stitching are gone, but I do miss the old camera icon with the realistic lens. There is a place for some realism/skeuomorphism.

    5. While part of me agrees with you, the other part of me never wants to become the crotchety old man who doesn’t like anything new. New and fresh, bring it on.

    6. designed for children, i got to agree – yet at the same time, the real young kids may not read so well, so — slide on the green box honey thats how to answer the call… fails on intuitive symbols that graphically expressed a universal language world wide. iOS 7 thinks it simplifies and purifies yet it doesn’t.

      1. You are both right. Green Game Centre was the worst possible thing that could have come out of skeuomorphic design, but the new icon for the application is so abstract that there is no way to guess what it is about.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, I remember when game centre first launched, my first thought was, this can’t be real, this is not Apple, how the heck did this get through Steve Job’s vetting process. I also felt that the leather stitching in iCal was so inelegant, so unApple-like and don’t start me on the childlike shredder. My first thoughts with regard to iOS 7 are wow! Apple got it’s mojo back, this looks fresh, clean and exciting. I wasn’t sure about the new icons (probably because of the stark contrast to the fatter ones I’m now used to) but now I understand the reasoning behind that flatness, it all makes perfect sense as with pretty much everything that Mr Ives puts his mark on. I think the icons are a shock because they are so radically different, but of course they fit perfectly with the gorgeous new interface, whereas the old 3d shadowed ones would look out of place and would take away from the clever new layering of the design. Goodbye skeuomorphism, you had your time, it’s time to “turn the page” and start a brand new and more elegant chapter. Thanks Apple I never gave up on you, but now I really believe in you again.

      1. It looks nothing like apple it looks like android and windows and BB 10. Blah. I like the 3d look but then the icons are flat. Make them pop make them stand out.

  1. Of course John Maeda the experimental graphic artist would say this. His work never had to be used by living humans trying to accomplish anything involving a responsive UI.

    I don’t disagree that there will come a point when we have more fluid UIs, but they will still need to allow us to do things effortlessly, not just be eye candy floating around a screen.

    Another hit-piece by someone that isn’t very relevant anymore.

  2. “Apple and other leaders in the design space should be thinking like the designers who are imagining a complete gesture-based operating system across an array of small and large display systems (like at Oblong).”

    “Gesture-based” seems a bit broad and vague, considering that fingers are already used, I would say we are already doing some of that.

    Apple is hardly insular. I will be that Apple has mocked up a host of different input structures and tried them out internally with large numbers of people.

  3. It may have been a black hole that consumes everything in John Maeda’s article, but I like the new functions and interface.

    I for one would not keep calling a multi-function, multitasking, 3-dimensional interface flat.

  4. Let’s see, without Apple’s presently gesture based, touch screen OS, where would we be? Oh, yeah! Hundreds of plastic buttons, that’s where. Who invented that? Not Google, or Samsung, they shamelessly copied that system. Leave innovation to them and we’d still be clicking our way through 82 menu levels to get where we need to be. No thanks.

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