Is skeuomorphism just a trend or an effort to help humans adapt to a virtual world. In digital design, skeuomorphism emulates objects in the physical world and recently, a debate has begun amongst designers, smart phone users or anyone who may use a computer interface. People in favor of “skeu-ish” design argue that this form of design helps create a familiarity between the original object and its digital counterpart. This makes using the interface connected to a cultural process that is embedded in most of us and therefore, visually appealing. Furthermore, one could look at cultural property, where tangible objects are considered for preservation for the future. Many of these ideals have been promoted by, now defunct senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple Inc, Scott Forstall, who helped create Apple’s iOS visual ornamentation. But, since Forstall’s responsibilities have been moved to the Apple boardroom, a new design aesthetic could be forming.

The critics argue against this form of “hyper-realistic” design, rejecting this style because some believe it goes against interface design standards. Also, the skeu-ish design is known to rarely incorporate informative input or feedback when accounting for a value, hence limiting potential creativity by conforming to its physical twin. The contradiction to this skue-y style can be found in Window’s latest mobile/cross-platform UI and much of Android’s UI as well. These two big-time players give the user a pure fantastic platform for endless creativity when it comes the interface. Compare it to living on earth without a few restricting laws of physics, I’m talking about flying or being able to lift a car with one hand.

Basically, I’m comparing non-skeuomorphism to being a superhero. Many are just calling it “flat” design since this growing style doesn’t have all the realistic textures. Also, some believe the trend of crazy-realism relates to old technology that has been forgotten, I’m referring to the pre-retina display iPhones.

John Gruber just wrote about this growing trend on his blog, Daring Fireball:

What occurs to me is that the timing of this trend, and the fact that iOS — and the iPhone in particular — is its leading edge, is not coincidental. It’s because of retina displays.

The whole default iOS look — the textures, the shadows, the subtle (and sometimes unsubtle) 3D effects — is optimized for non-retina displays.

I can agree to some of these statements, but I feel that there can be a balance between the two design styles that can take advantage of cultural heritage with the creativity of an open world, free of constraints. When designing an interface it could be helpful to connect the user to a design they have been accustomed to—making the experience known, intuitively. Then by merging “flat” design and its counter part could give some magic to the virtual mobile environment. This design can be compared to a sphinx or a centaur where you have something human and something fantastical. I am someone that does enjoy the fine details of iOS interface designs, where the interface pops off the screen with real-world characteristics. But I have an open mind and I have come to some cross-roads with my own designs that cannot follow the “true-to-life” designs. So I will embrace a “new” trend of UI being “flat” and open-ended. This will allow a designer to spread their creative wings like a mythic griffin…abracadabra.

 

-steve

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