Hanes HallbirnSaturday,3 November 2012

The Snap:

A major executive shake-up occurred at Apple earlier this week, in which Scott Forstall and John Browett were fired from their respective positions as leaders of mobile software development and retail stores. Forstall’s departure is viewed by many analysts as possibly singaling a major shift in Apple’s software design philosophy, which has long been a source of friction for its design team. As Forstall departs, hardware design leader Jonny Ive will take on an expanded role that includes oversight of software design.

The Download:

The significance here is that Ive’s minimalist, industrial design tastes contrast sharply with Fortstall’s use of real-world items as design cues. A prime example of Forstall’s approach is Apple’s Notes application, which mimics a lined, yellow notepad. The familiarity of a physical notebook is used to convey the application’s purpose, in lieu of explicit instructions.

This design practice is but one aspect of skeuomorphic design, a practice that Farhad Manjoo of Slate describes well:

Technically, “skeuomorphic” design refers to software that mimics the elements in an older device that were functionally necessary for that device to work. In that way, the iPhone calculator’s three-dimensional buttons are an archetypal example of skeuomorphism. You needed three-dimensional buttons in physical calculators; on a flat screen, 3-D buttons aren’t necessary. (On the other hand, leather stitching in the Calendar app isn’t skeuomorphic, because the leather isn’t functional, just decorative.)

So now that we’re all caught up on skeuomorphism, let me get to the real point here: beware of the water cooler guru espousing the merits of the practice. You know the guy. He’s also the self-appointment social media “ninja” at your company. So unless he attended design school, then chances are that he just heard of skeuomorphism earlier this week too.

So serve him a warm glass of shut the hell up.

Hat Tips:

New York Times, Slate, Meme Generator

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  1. […] yesterday, I wrote a short PSA to warn readers about the impending wave of self-appointed, water cooler design gurus […]

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