Tech Stuff

I learned a new word this morning ~ Skeuomorph.

So I was interested in this article entitled “Bloomberg: Jony Ive iOS 7 Changes Are So Major They’re Causing Delays” because frankly, I did not know that iOS was getting a big overhaul. So as I’m reading the article, I came across this:

Citing sources “with knowledge of the matter”, Bloomberg suggests that Ive’s demands could see the software “at risk of falling behind,” as he pushes to scrub all traces of Forstall. Indeed, the sources explain that he’s been massively revamping iOS, “shunning realistic images” and “exploring more dramatic changes to the e-mail and calendar tools.” It sounds like, in other words, a major “screw you” to skeumorphism.

…and I felt really dumb ’cause I didn’t know what that was. So I of course went to to see what I could find. It’s actually quite easy to understand.

A skeuomorph is a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal, or a software calendar application which displays the days organized on animated month pages in imitation of a paper desk calendar.

So here are some examples:

This looks like a real appointment book.

It looks like a rotary phone! Raise your hand if you don’t even remember rotary. (My hand is down).

See? It looks like a real desktop!

So here’s what I don’t understand. Apparently this type of design is heavily debated as to whether or not it’s cool or tacky. Here’s more:

Arguments for skeuomorphism in digital design

The arguments in favor of skeuomorphic design are that it makes it easier for those familiar with the original device to use the digital emulation, and that it is visually appealing. Interactions with computer devices are purely cultural and learned, so once a process is learned in society, it is difficult to remove. Norman describes this process as a form of cultural heritage.

Arguments against skeuomorphism in digital design

The arguments against skeuomorphic design are that skeuomorphic interface elements use metaphors that are more difficult to operate and take up more screen space than standard interface elements; that this breaks operating system interface design standards; that it causes an inconsistent look and feel between applications;that skeuomorphic interface elements rarely incorporate numeric input or feedback for accurately setting a value; that many users may have no experience with the original device being emulated; and that skeuomorphic design limits creativity by grounding the experience to physical counterparts.

Apple, while under the direction of Steve Jobs, was known for its wide usage of skeuomorphic designs in various applications. The debate over the merits of Apple’s extensive use of skeuomorphism became the subject of substantial media attention in October 2012, a year after Jobs’ death, largely as the result of the reported resignation of Scott Forstall, described as “the most vocal and high-ranking proponent of the visual design style favored by Mr. Jobs”. Apple designer Jonathan Ive, who took over some of Forstall’s responsibilities and had “made his distaste for the visual ornamentation in Apple’s mobile software known within the company”, was expected to move the company toward a less skeuomorphic aesthetic.

So my opinion

I like things that look like other things. I think it is a cultural heritage type of thing. I know the world has moved on. I love being connected at all times to the internet, the Cloud, whatever…but I still love Moleskine notebooks and the idea of stationery etc. If my applications make me feel like I’m rockin’ it old school style -I’m in! But of course it’s a style issue and people have different styles. I just hope that customization will always be an option so that you can be free to express yourself however you wish in this area.

And now that you’ve read my blog piece on skeuomorphism, I thought it would post this:


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