Why Apple ditched its skeuomorphic design for iOS7

“Are you ready to join the future? That seems to be the subtext of every tech presentation of the 21st century, but for Apple, acknowledged leaders in the field, there has been a nagging feeling that its users were already there, waiting for it to catch up,” Steve Rose reports for The Guardian.

“At its Worldwide Developers Conference presentation of its new iOS7 user interface on Tuesday, Apple finally cottoned on, by cutting ties with the design principle that has so often held it back: skeuomorphism,” Rose reports. “Originally this was to help us neanderthals make sense of the dazzling new technology before us, as in: “Oh, I get it. That looks like a button, so I’m meant to push it.” But Apple got skeuomorphism-drunk, plastering the screens of its futuristically minimal devices with incongruous faux wood, leather and green baize. It got ugly.”

Rose reports, “Steve Jobs was allegedly a fan of skeuomorphism, as was iOS creator Scott Forstall; Apple’s design chief Jony Ive wasn’t, and legions of fans sided with him in what became an intense ‘skeuomorphic v flat’ debate. Following Forstall’s departure last year, the flatties seem to have won the day… But rather than old-school flatness, iOS7 gives you layers of flatness that float on top of one another”

Read more in the full article here.

72 Comments

    1. Steve Jobs once said, the design goals for Aqua UI, “when you saw it you wanted to lick it.” I think that Steve would have wanted to lick iOS 7 but then toss it in the trash.

      1. First world problem. Stop being a whiney little girl. By the time users have swapped the background for their own wallpaper, moved the stock apps that they never use to a folder on the last page, added their own apps, and bundled loads into folders on the first home page, the look will be totally different. Anyone who fails to understand that simple fact, has obviously never used an iPhone and iOS for more than a couple of minutes poking around in a retail store.
        The complaints about the new font being difficult to see are a case in point; it’s always been white, and the original text looks smaller on the screen, and in order to see it more clearly, I use a predominantly dark grey background picture.
        How difficult is that to understand?

        1. Motorola ran a Droid phone TV commercial described the iPhone as a “Pretty” “Princess” phone… With the introduction iOS 7 and the notable changes, they were five years too early!

        2. Thats funny – boys can whiney too.

          What you offered as a basic solution was my initial thought day one. However, that does not do justice or truly fix the design choice Apple seems to be headed in.

          First World issue. Here is the worlds most innovative company following its competitors. Prove me wrong.

          Second World issue. Apple strives to better define or re-invent itself, with its design philosophy however in a few short moments seeing iOS7 they fail to follow their own inspiration.

          Oh wow, my own wall paper effects the entire interface, huge ho hum. All that occurs is the translucent white popups allow me to still see a blurry image underneath. I love the parallax layers. But this also does not make functionality better, its candy. And personally the text is a huge issue, readability is a responsible design factor. You will notice its better with the black popups with white text and not so with white. Wait a minute, is that constancy? Why are there two translucent colours being overlaid.
          I am not buying into this bs. Apple needs to work out this OS far more. In six months this is not a good showing.

          Perfection takes time. Focus and weed out the million of mediocre ideas and seek the best ones. Until it is perfect we will not put our name on it. Ha ha big joke. Is this the excuse now for Maps. Siri continues to be beta. iOS7 is still in beta. OSX is Maverick – lets hope the flatness is never seen on OSX. Its all theory and glorious words… a philosophy and energy to press forward. But in a short last words – Ives states the truth, “what we see in iOS is an important new direction, and in many ways a new beginning.” Ahem. Work in progress. Not a complete solution. Not refined like the hardware. I will not be surprised to see Samsung looking plastic cheap phones by Apple soon. iOS looks cheap it doe snot fit with the aesthetics of Ives hardware.

          iOS was the most simplest intuitive operating system… Apple will complex it to hell in effort to stay relevant to the competition. Competition is good but as a leader, Apple plays catch up now. Bad when it is still in courts fighting that everyone copied them. Now who’s coping. Blackberry OS 10 looks nice, but fails in functionality. Its a horrible experience. Over time one could get use to it. That is what Apple is saying now too. Fuuuuuk. Windows 8 Metro looks dull and primitive but is extremely complicated and fragmented within. There are some noticeable things that resemble Metro in iOS7. The font and colours are one. Android is fragmented per handset – yet features are being adopted by Apple. Thats wrong. If Apple strives for perfection then the solution has already arrived – after all it has the Apple logo on it. Signed sealed and delivery will mean its already completed. I love the technology behind the scenes. Apple is doing wonderful stuff. But, Ives best sign a letter saying sorry iOS7 was a mistake.

          1. “But, Ives best sign a letter saying sorry iOS7 was a mistake.”

            His head is too big, not going to happen. iOS 7 visually is a step back to the last century.

            Steve Jobs signature look, R.I.P., forever. Sad …

            Eat your veggies,

      2. App icons are very distinctive. They need to communicate what the app does or simply to differentiate the app from other with similar functions on the app store. Apps are not logos, they are not symbols to convey road signs or washroom locations. Apps do not require stripping down to a coloured title and a white letter or shape. Windows 8 metro has other apps, yet, the generic music app is headphones – Apple should not cater to this mentality, specially when App store offers so many Messaging apps from other 3rd party companies. Will all these companies adopt the same design aesthetics as Apple. Facebook sort of is already, Twitter. But what about Angry Birds. Yeah lets make it red with a silhouette of a bird – wait no thats twitter.

      3. http://www.iclarified.com/31021/ios-6-vs-ios-7-icon-comparison-chart

        then compare the icons within iOS7 to each other, no consistency, some are over simplified on solid colour buttons while others are over detailed.

        Clock is about the least changed icon.

        Alright these are icons, but flattening them improves what?
        Flattening follows the competition.
        Flattening made them unsophisticated unrefined less classy.

        Some icons are very abstract.
        Some communications are not green like the others.

        Yeah, so if these are just minor issues to you, small details, unimportant then why have they not been addresses more

  1. It’s a change. It’s different. Wide ties. Narrow ties. What’s cool today is old tomorrow. Nothing wrong with a change once in a while. Have to wonder if it would have changed if Steve Jobs were still CEO? Possibly? I don’t understand the venomous silly ass remarks from some here who think that anyone who doesn’t like the new look is an idiot. Different strokes for different folks. If we all liked the same thing it would be a pretty dull world. Opinions. Everyone has one. Personally I’m holding off for a a while before I make a judgment. Plus, this will be tweaked before it’s final release. I respect those who like it if it’s an objective observation. And I certainly respect those who don’t like it because they were very happy with the existing system.

      1. Nice. I remember when I was a kid I saw some ties hanging in my dad’s closet. Really wide ties. I laughed and pointed at them and my mother said “just wait, they’ll be back in style again some day”. Yup. Mother knows best.

  2. Honestly, the real reason Apple ditched skeuowrmorphic design is that the number of internal documents with incorrect spelling of the word was growing exponentially. Now certain people were in favor of adding the word to all the different dictionaries to cut down on the spelling errors so that it could be searched for properly, but the guy in charge of dictionaries said skrew that. He wanted nothing to do with the skerewomorphistic wars inside of Apple.

    So finally Apple just said we’re not going to skrewmorph no more. And cut it out of their plans for the future.

    1. “Honestly, the real reason Apple ditched skeuowrmorphic design is that the number of internal documents with incorrect spelling of the word was growing exponentially.”

      You have got to be kidding – spelling error doomed iOS7?

      The reason Apple abandoned skeuowrmorphic design is because Steve is dead. Forstall was forced out and Ive won. No one stepped up to the plate to carry Steve’s enlightened and distinctive signature vision forward.

      Jony, go back to hardware design and improve better battery life on my iPhone.

      Your lack of taste in iOS design is out there for everyone to see …

  3. Hey, MDN… yesterday you took down my comment on the new iOS7 look then ran a whole story on the estrogen laden embarrassment rolled out on Monday. The sissy-fication of Apple is now complete. It all looks just like Tim Cook and Tim Cook is why so many people from Wall Street to Main Street are wondering if Apple Inc. will ever get its innovative mojo back. Touting great profits, sales, market dominance, etc., etc., isn’t working. The new iOS look just makes it all worser and worser.

    1. I love how all these people are saying they don’t like it when they haven’t even used it… They all said that about the 1st iPhone and the first iPad (it’s just a big iPod touch) – Wait till we all have it in our hands – I bet everyone will love it..

      1. Please, Apple has provided us with innovations and design aesthetics – taught us to say no to a thousand possibilities seeking that one perfect answer. The design of some of these apps is atrocious. Its got to be fixed before iOS 7 is released. The concept to “feel” the experience though passion for app icons which embrace touch and feel for what a app does… is a huge and difficult direction. Work in progress, a good direction but fail so far.

        The functions of iOS 7 is beautiful though inspired mainly from the competitors. That side is beautiful. Programming and Engineering seem to met and agree – that is working wonderfully — the Visual Design is not.

      2. “But rather than old-school flatness, iOS7 gives you layers of flatness that float on top of one another”

        Oh come on, Notifications and Popups were always on different layers, just easy to read and clearer before. Set on horrible dark blue rounded rectangles – nevertheless – on layers. Just no parallax effect. How does that help the increase productivity or use. How does that better the experience other than make it fun. Fun for a while until we all bored with that effect. Flat sucks. It just really sucks and text is flatter and poorly executed. White translucency appears ok on a white iPhone still the text is hard to read – Apple needs to think this more.

          1. Good one. Perhaps I shall. Yet its not the OS I have an issue with, its the graphics and the responsibility that change should be to better the experience. The features of iOS fell great. The reason for flat graphics – tend to be due to the layering. If shadows were yet a third layer, type could be more readable and the parallax effect could be enhanced. Yet again this is eye candy. it has no benefit to the user.

            “I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity.
            In clarity. In efficiency. True simplicity, is derived from so much more then just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity. iOS7 is a clear representation of these goals.”

            – Totally agree, however being merely a representation Apples’ goals suggests its not a solutions. Apple claims now to focus on the perfect feel. Well I am not the only one feeling what I see as being unfinished or lame.

            “It has a whole new structure that is coherent and it is applied across the entire system.”

            – What is being stretched across the entire system is translucency, tinted back, screened back blurry white and black rectangular areas with poor readability. Definitely structure but coherent not really? First off, pick one shall it be white or black.

            “We considered, the tiniest details, like refining the typography, to much larger ones like redesigning all the icons. And developing a grid system allowed us to achieve a much more harmonius relationship between individual elements.”

            – If in fact the tiniest details are being considered why is readability so poor. Why has words taken over the UI – it use to be a graphical user interface. Swipe to unlock set in words. A two year old needs to read. This is not universal and not responsible.

            “We’ve also incorporated a whole new palette of colours.”

            – No, pastels are not new. Soft and delicate colours exist in nature.

            “Distinct, functional layers help establish hierarchy and order.
            And the use of translucency gives you a sense of your context.
            These plains combined with new approaches to animations and motion, create a sense of depth and vitality.”

            – Okay now, now here is something we need, to establish order. Take the complex functions and superimpose controls similar to Quicktime play back controller. Sure, that goes the right direction. Appearing when needed and vanishes when its not.

            “The iPhone, responding to your movements, drives the parallax to create a whole new experience of depth.”

            – Love this, yet again its a fun experience, yet candy.

            “In many ways we’ve tried to create an interface that is unintrusive and differential.”

            – oh come on, we tried, better be more confident. There is no way this is more differential then IOS10 Blackberry. Adn translucency could be seen as intrusive.

            “One way the the design recessed and yet elevates your content. Even the simple act of changing your wallpaper has a noticeable effect on the way your iPhone looks and feels across the entire system.”

            – Again, due to translucency you see colour from your wallpaper inside the lines of the controls that overlay your wallpaper – nice effect, but this is not always how the overlaid white rectangles of information work… not consistent.

            “While iOS 7 is completely new, it was important to us, to make it instantly familiar. We wanted to take an experience, that people know very well and actually add to it. To make it more useful. To make it more enjoyable.”

            – I will need to try it to see how useful iOS7 is. The features and functions look promising, Apple is attempting to go the right way. Yet it takes design hints from the competition. More useful we will see. More enjoyable wow. What a subjective claim.

            “iOS 7 brings with it the most significant changes made to the interface since the introduction to the very first iOS. To create it, we brought together a broad range of expertise from design to engineering. From what we’ve been able to achieve together, we see iOS 7, as defining an important new direction and in many ways; a new beginning.”

            – its new, its not refined at all, this is a new direction for Apple its still in the developing stages, and whats mostly new is Apple is innovating on the innovations the competition apparently copied from them. Yes thats new.

    2. Jay, you’re looking worser and worser. If I can say that. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t, but your superior intellect has taught me that it’s okay, so I’ll say it now.

    3. “yesterday you took down my comment”

      Patience and tolerance have limits.

      You can, you know, start your own blogspot.com page for free. It looks like “ihatetimcook” is still available over there.

    4. Sissy-fication? How long did it take you to invent that?
      And you’re talking utter bollocks. Does a change to a mobile operating system threaten your manhood or something?
      If so, you need professional help, and soon. You seem to have gender-identification issues that need sorting out.
      Me, I’m entirely masculine, but I have no fear that pulling my phone out of my pocket is going to suddenly make people point and call me a sissy, or gay, because, you know what?
      99.999% of people out there couldn’t give a flying fuck what you think, or what a mobile phone screen looks like.
      There, Jay, d’you think you can get that through the Neanderthal-level thinking of yours, and maybe, just maybe, grow the fuck up!

      1. “Apple finally cottoned on, by cutting ties with the design principle that has so often held it back: skeuomorphism,” Rose reports.”

        Held back, wow, what a step forward with linear outlines and Steve Jobs vision thrown into the dustbin of history.

  4. None of these writers have one ounce of Design experience. Did they study Design or even understand the basics of Design Theory?

    Hell no!

    You know the saying, “assho….., everyone’s got one”. They want to be a critic, give them a pencil and some paper and see what they can come up with.

      1. Why yes I do and I’ve made a very good living and have several national awards to my credit over the last 25+ year. From print, industrial design, web and app. Design is based on theory, balance, usability, simplicity and applies to all things from a house to a steering wheel in a car. A corporate logo or a product like an iPod. I think Jony knows a bit more then you do.

        What are your credentials Donald? Now prove to me you aren’t just talking out your ass like the hit whore that wrote this article.

        1. But that was not my question now was it.
          Where is some of your beefs or joys about iOS7?

          So, I think you misunderstood my brief. “let’s hear what does work – in iOS7 – in your opinion.” Give us your critique. Being a professional – lets hear it. For the I am not surprised you took the offensive and defend your career.

          Design is communication where it links creativity and innovation and shapes those ideas into practical and attractive propositions for both customers and users alike. Don’t bother to challenge me you know nothing of me. And you have proven zilch to me anyways – more so without an opinion. Just an opinion of others. You got nothing to offer? Design is subjective yet it must be responsible also.

          Most good designers are not self-obsessed caricatures like you seem to be by jumping to a conclusion that your credentials are being threatened. But truly they are real people who care immensely on the responsibility they offer to the world. Design is – discovery, define, develop, deliver – of course there is history of good design and theories with guidelines.

          One of the most important rules is; Rules where made to be broken. With the idea, nothing is ever perfect, design is a continuum – you can always improve on things.

          I attended the very school Jonathan attended, Newcastle Polytechnic. Sure I am rather jealous of his success but who wouldn’t be. I have served both as a Graphic and Industrial Designer for the automotive industry in California at Nissan for 10 years, we won several awards – its a team effort. IBM for 3 years, and at Walt Disney for 4. There is no reason to continue on these terms.

          So, back to the question, iOS7, whats your take… really like to hear your opinions instead of shouting your mouth off.

  5. I love skeuomorphism and dislike moves away from it. I also dislike what I’ve seen so far of iOS7. That said, I think iCal in OS X 10.7 is a monstrosity.

    Skeuomorphism is what separates OS X from other operating systems, without it OS X becomes just another boring OS that’s dull to use. OS X makes me smile every day and part of that is due to that fact the OS feels organic. The organic feel is a major part of the reason I switched, the OS feels alive. Without this feeling OS X becomes a UNIX based bore with little to differentiate it from the competition. This will make me sad. I like shiny! Leave my shiny alone!

    1. Then don’t upgrade to iOS 7.

      I think skeumorphism is something which can very easily be taken too far, and the real problem with it is that it provides no continuity across the OS and apps. You end up with a hodge-podge of buttons, looks, etc. because each app is being designed to look like an old physical universe item, and most of those items really don’t link together well.

    2. it seems Maverick is not moving away from skeuomorphism.

      Yes, agreed, that is been my point, Apple is no longer differentiating itself from the competition. It is following suit, yet improving what the others try to push. Thats mostly functionality not appearance. iOS7 has some great features and wonderful implementation to function nicely… but it looks amateur so far.

      Touchy Feel-ie icons, colours and passion for a sense of user emotional experience. Is a hard challenge to achieve I don’t think Apple will get there.

      Furthermore all this talk about consistency – please some one show me where things are more consistent.

      iOS7 should be easier to understand, more intuitive and quicker to pick up, better functions and that all would make for a better user experience. I am not sure of this until i use it. But what i see, the design sucks, the design of icons really stinks. Choices made really blow and are irresponsible design. Amateur.

      Prepare to sign the apology letter Jony,
      Tim will need you to comply.

    3. Agree with on that, organic gives it the feeling of beeing alive! But, absolutely not the reason for me using it, as you imply for yourself. Far from it.
      The new flat-line is a little bit too much candy like, but haven’t actually used it.
      Suspect we are going to have a few themes to choose from, and that theme that was presented will just be one of many themes that suits the white iPhone. Wait and see.

      1. I can’t imagine the device working much different other than some sweet new features that the competition had…

        Translucency does not better the readability you can see in the sample pictures and the video – you don’t need to try it yet to say it works or not, look and state your opinion

        The changing of icons – okay i guess i made a huge deal of this, but the bubbles suck – all must agree

        Game Center – bubbles suck
        Photos – a colour wheel – omg really

    4. “I love skeuomorphism and dislike moves away from it. I also dislike what I’ve seen so far of iOS7.”

      I like skeuomorphism – if it’s executed well. I also like the new look. It all matters on how well it’s executed.

  6. Everyone is discussing “skeu vs flat” on terms of personal preference.

    Problem is, Apple SHOULD NOT be driven by executives’ personal preferences. Flatties should NOT be making change for the sake of change, they should PROVE an improvement in user interface recognition/speed/number of steps to perform a function/etc requires change. Ive’s presentation about his style didn’t offer any convincing argument that the new icons are better in any way — it’s just change for the sake of change.

    Skeu design, whether one thought it was overdone or not, enabled very fast intuitive user understanding. Different icons and application backgrounds were immediately obvious. Borders between content and controls were helpful. Functions could be understood without even pausing to think about them. Can anyone say the same thing for the new flat look, the washed out blurs, the skinny font? I don’t think so. I like what minimalists SAY, but it has to work in the real world. In bright sunlight and in dim rooms. On the go and when parked with full attention on the phone. With fat fingers and with slim feminine digits.

    Bottom line, the look of iOS 7 does nothing for me personally, i think the skinny font is harder to read, and I strongly question whether it will attract new users from any other platform because of the look. Has anyone heard of any Windows or Android users fawning over the amazing new compelling style? I haven’t.

    All that said, the feature improvements are very good, so at least Apple can rest assured that it won’t lose any longtime iOS users. The new control panel is slick, though fans of hardware buttons will probably always like the tactile feel of home & volume buttons, etc. Apple takes two steps forward and one step back.

    1. Well said. Apple is not losing me as a customer, it’s how I make my living. Plus I’d be an Apple user even if I won the lottery. It’s the best thing out there and the safest. It’s not perfect but it’s not incomplete either. Like you, I’m not a fanboy just a long time user and supporter. And actually that’s what really matters. I have no problem giving praise or criticism wherever needed regarding Apple. Those who follow blindly are blind. I’m not sure if I like the new look but the features and improvements in iOS and OS X look fantastic. And my new Mac Pros are coming. Yippee! And I can’t wait to order them.

      1. I’d be more of an Apple user if I *did* win the lottery!

        I’d trash all of my PCs and replace them with Macs in a hearbeat. I had an original Mac (128k, b&w, rocked!) and have had several since, but now I’m down to just an iBook with a PPC processor. 🙁

        1. Hey, Mac really are not that expensive.
          I dont buy into the idea Macs are over priced.
          Every Mac I have owned has been rock solid.

          And yes, every PC I have owned I have tossed away in less then a year. Customized PCs are different and far more expensive then Macs but they still don’t last.

          A Mac is worth every damn penny.

      2. Apple will not lose me as a customer either, far too much invested in software, hardware and stock… that said this is iOS7… i make no money off my iOS devices and I have over 200.

    2. Mike, why should Apple have to prove anything? They are Apple. They make Apple. They’ve always made decisions based upon executive’s personal preferences. And personal preferences of every single individual in the chain of command right down to the engineer deciding how to code something.

      Steve used the phrase “at the intersection of liberal arts and technology” as a way of saying that aesthetics are just as important as speeds and feeds. That awareness of what works aesthetically has been a cornerstone of the successes Apple has had (and certainly the opposite has been true, too). Since Apple has largely been successful, I would argue that their personal preferences are to be trusted. (That said, I don’t like the new icons … yet ;-))

      1. Apple has long claimed that it would NOT implement change for the sake of change. From the very beginning of Apple, its effective leaders (except in the era when Apple was led by sugar water salesmen) would only offer a feature or a product if it felt it could offer tangible improvements to the status quo. Willy-nilly change is something that inferior companies do to distract the dumb consumer with fresh sheet metal every so often.

        “I’m constantly haunted by thoughts of, is it good enough? Is there any way we could have made it better?”
        – Jonathan “Jony” Ive

        From a styling point of view, I am simply stating that Ive didn’t improve on the iOS6 user interface at all by dumbing down icons and making the font wimpier. The software team DID improve the interface with other more fundamental features, however.

    3. WOW, Mike understands. Well said Mike. Agree.

      “Has anyone heard of any Windows or Android users fawning over the amazing new compelling style? I haven’t.” Mike

      However, Apple decides to basically copy?

      It seems competition has scared Apple into following them.
      The old icons at least communicate well what the app is for.
      Its not a complaint over feminine colours, its a complaint that the icons really suck. The design details and things is total bs. More preparation went in to the presentation then the icons? That said, the internal functional tiny icons not the Apps are clean and consistent.

  7. Please keep in mind that for everyone of you who hate the new iOS7, there are / will be hundreds of thousands who LOVE it. That has always been the case, and will continue to be going forward.

    Apple didn’t become so successful by catering to those stuck in the past. Adapt or get left behind.

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