In my student post, “So, What Did We Learn from Instagram’s Logo Redesign”, I analyzed the design process Instagram took to create their newest logo. The biggest takeaway from that post, is the overall transition from a skeuomorphic design to a flat design.
“Skeuomorphism is a term most often used in graphical user interface design to describe interface objects that mimic their real-world counterparts in how they appear and/or how the user can interact with them.” (Skeuomorphism Is Dead, Long Live Skeuomorphism)
A skeuomorphic design usually resembles a real-life object (Beslic). The skeuomorphic design was very useful around the late 90s/early 2000s because it mimicked the real world, which made the transition to digital easier.
See figure below. The design on the left has more texture— skeuomorphic. There are obvious shadows and highlights, and the buttons are raised. The flat design on the right is clean and simple. The design on the right is what we see today, a minimalistic, bright, and functional interface.In 2007 when Apple released iOS7, Forbes magazine “declared skeuomorphism dead”. A completely new, rich, flat design was the future for Apple (Skeuomorphism Is Dead, Long Live Skeuomorphism). Even Windows 8 embraced the flat design. However, there was a study done that found Windows 8 user interface to be disappointing and inconsistent between the touch screen and desktop feature (Newman).
In my opinion, skeuomorphism isn’t dead, but it has only adapted to the digital generation today. Although a lot of interfaces are embracing the flat look, some of the icons are still similar. For example, the iOS5 iPhone Camera icon physically resembled a camera. Now, even though the design is flat, we still know that it is a camera-based on the image. Take a look at today’s smartwatches. We are now interacting digitally with real-world objects.
“Modern skeuomorphism, therefore, is the bridge at the intersection of digital and industrial design. It is about facilitating non-traditional device interaction without sacrificing usability. It is about enriching and enlivening real-world objects in the context of our human physiology.” (Baker)
Is augmented and virtual reality the new “modern skeuomorphism”? Possibly. I do know that skeuomorphism is not a design trend that will come and go, it will always be here. The simplistic style and flat design might fade out, but the obvious affordances will always be there to help guide the user.
Beslic, Danijel. “Skeuomorphic Design Is Dead: Myth or Reality?” Medium, UX Collective, 14 June 2018, uxdesign.cc/skeuomorphic-design-is-dead-myth-or-reality-b5c65708677a.
“Skeuomorphism Is Dead, Long Live Skeuomorphism.” The Interaction Design Foundation, 2018, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/skeuomorphism-is-dead-long-live-skeuomorphism.
Newman, Jared. “Windows 8 Interface Called ‘Disappointing’ by Usability Expert.” PCWorld, PCWorld, 19 Nov. 2012, www.pcworld.com/article/2015073/windows-8-interface-called-disappointing-by-usability-expert.html.
Baker, Justin. “Skeuomorphic Design – A Controversial UX Approach That Is Making a Comeback.” Medium, Muzli – Design Inspiration, 20 Nov. 2017, medium.muz.li/skeuomorphic-design-a-controversial-ux-approach-that-is-making-a-comeback-a0b6e93eb4bb.