The Skeuomorphism Rift Within Apple

Austin Carr, reporting for Fast Company:

Inside Apple, tension has brewed for years over the issue. Apple iOS SVP Scott Forstall is said to push for skeuomorphic design, while industrial designer Jony Ive and other Apple higher-ups are said to oppose the direction. “You could tell who did the product based on how much glitz was in the UI,” says one source intimately familiar with Apple’s design process.

I’ve heard much the same. There is an internal political divide regarding these skeuomorphic interfaces.

But before Forstall, it was Steve Jobs who encouraged the skeuomorphic approach, some say. “iCal’s leather-stitching was literally based on a texture in his Gulfstream jet,” says the former senior UI designer. “There was lots of internal email among UI designers at Apple saying this was just embarrassing, just terrible.”

iCal/Calendar is perhaps the epicenter of this debate. Someone inside Apple must actually like the Calendar app for Mac and iPad. And it’s not just what it looks like — the stitched leather, torn paper remnants, etc. — it’s how it works. Then there’s the iPhone version, which doesn’t sport any of the skeuomorphic chrome — and is actually a very nice-to-use app.

It’s the difference between a fad and true style. I think Apple’s skeuomorphic designs are a fad, much like the pinstripes and brushed metal of a decade ago.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012