Skeuomorphic No More?

Skeuomorph is compounded from the Greek: skéuos (container or tool), and morph (shape). It describes something that possess additional ornamentation indicative of its inspiration. It is used to describe both physical objects as well as digital designs.

In the physical world we frequently see it as something made of plastic that is styled to look like leather, wood, etc. In the digital world it shows up when a button or other digital element contains textures, shading, etc. to make it look like the physical element that inspired it. From a design point of view in digital assets it is useful in that the user recognizes what an object represents by its physical familiarity (called an affordance).

Apple’s platforms used to be full of a great examples of Skeuomorphism. On iOS all the default icons had a glare that made them look 3D. Many apps, had a extra details to make them look lifelike. Take the Notes app, it was full of torn bits of paper, leather borders, stitching, paper lines, etc. The new version doesn’t have any of that (although it does have a slight paper texture).

iOS6 vs iOS7 Notes

iOS 7 didn’t lead the move to non-skeuomorphic design. Windows Phone 7 (the predecessor to WP8 and Windows 8) and the Metro design eschewed skeuomorphism completely. (If you are keeping score, iOS 7’s features were inspired by Android and design inspired by Microsoft.) Android has always been been straddling the proverbial skeuomorphic fence. Although with the the other two mobile plays moving away from skeuomorphism I expect Android to follow.

iOS7’s move away from skeuomorphism really highlights how most apps design no longer tries to mimic the platform’s design completely. Users are creative with their apps, and often times bring their own design with their app across all platforms. That is the great thing about building your cross platform apps with Delphi. You can use the standard platform styles so your app looks like a standard app on each platform, or just as easily switch to a premium or custom style and have your app stand-out and look consistent across platforms.

Now you need to ask yourself if I only wrote this post so I could use words like eschew, skeuomorphic, proverbial and affordance.

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5 Responses to Skeuomorphic No More?

  1. Michael says:

    Now you need to ask yourself it I only wrote this post so I could use words like eschew, skeuomorphic, proverbial and affordance.

    🙂 Agree. And btw. it -> if

    Like always a pleasure to learn new vocabulary.Your articles are helpful from that perspective..

    Windows XP offered one of the best compromises imo. Since every human is different you never know what the preferred choice will become. MS Office has always been skeumorphic relative to Windows.

    The real abstraction in the sample given is the unruled sheet of paper. Maybe the next generation of first time customers already escaped from the materialistic spirit of the 80th that deeply influenced the current generation of buyers when growing up. Sometimes (some) people like to see/touch well known artifacts on devices. Looking at the notebook from the other side … there is almost no need in this world for black paper you write on with neon colored pens even if a developer used to ASCII terminals writes a letter to friends.

  2. Jim McKeeth says:

    Thanks, fixed it.

    Another great example is the floppy disk on the save button. So many users today have never seen a physical save button.

  3. Doug Reece says:

    I’m glad to see that skeuomorphism, as a UI design, is going away. However, I don’t consider a floppy drive icon skeuomorphic.

  4. Jim McKeeth says:

    Doug: It is skeuomorphic today in that the original save icon indicated it was going to a floppy disk because that was the save medium. Today’s save button is a derivative object that retains the ornamentation of when the button actually was associated with a floppy disk. 🙂

  5. Doug Reece says:

    Jim: But the save button itself is not emulating any physical device, and skeuomorph would be referring to the button itself, not it’s function. At least, I can’t think of any hardware devices I’ve seen that have a picture of a floppy disc on a button to save a file.

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