Does my skeuomorphism look realistic in this?
I was in a meeting the other day when a client started fuming about Apple’s overuse of skeuomorphism. I nodded sagely and stroked my imaginary tecchies beard, hoping I would not be called upon for an opinion.
Skeuomorphism? A hasty and covert Google revealed:
A skeuomorph /ˈskjuːəmɔrf/ [skyoo-uh-mawrf], or skeuomorphism, is a design element of a product that imitates design elements that were functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design.
…basically it’s a way of making new things appear comfy and familiar.
I often embed elements and textures from offline life into my interface design. An imperceptibly light shading can make an element appear more credible, or dare I say…realistic? So skeuomorphism is something I do every day just without the fancy title. Phew.
This thought process did get me thinking about the way I design website interfaces though. By adding a ‘real world’ texture or skin over an on-screen interface am I really making it more realistic? Or just adding an unnecessary layer of entirely superficial complexity?
I came by a blog post entitled The Flat Design Era written by Allan Grinshtein. Grinshtein encourages designers to strip back all unnecessary layers and risk creating entirely flat interfaces. He links out a number of fellow ‘flatlanders’ who have embraced a completely flat layout.
I was quite excited by this idea until I looked through the featured sites. They were all very clean and contemporary but none of the layouts got me particularly excited or convinced me to banish drop shadows forever.
Putting my personal preferences aside, surely this is just a question of usability.
If a slight drop shadow brings a button forward and makes it obvious to the user that it is a button then this is good design. If bringing a ‘real world’, familiar shape to an icon makes the user instantly recognise what it does and engage with it then this is good design.
Spending a week recreating the hand-stitched moleskin leather of Apple’s calendar is not a great use of design time.
I need to start ranting about this in meetings.