A plea for human rather than digital authenticity

A plea for human rather than digital authenticity

With iOS 7 Apple famously - and loudly - removed the rich textures of icons and interfaces past and went with the current trend of flatter, more solid, and more type-centric design. Yet with OS X on the Mac, and the just-releaed Logic Pro X, they not only kept a lot of rich design, they embraced all sorts of virtual knobs, switches, and panels. So what's a sane trend follower to do? David Barnard has some ideas:

Many have touted iOS 7 as Apple’s break from skeuomorphism, and that’s true if we apply its strictest definition, but in iOS 7 Apple chose to double down on physicality and the use of real world metaphors. Creating a physics engine for the user interface is most certainly not digital authenticity. While designing for iOS 7 and beyond, usability should always trump ideology and aesthetic. Beauty can enhance usability, but ultimately we’re creating software for people to use, not stare at in awe. That’s where texture heavy design went wrong, and that’s where “digitally authentic” design will likely stumble as well.

David's absolutely right. Texture or lack thereof aren't important, usability is important. If the richness of design makes an app more approachable and usable, it's good. If it distracts or disorients, it's not good. Likewise flatter design.

Nature is full of texture, but most of the time it isn't noisy or superfluous about it. One of the most important elements in design is contrast, and contrast isn't just light and dark, but solid and textured. iOS 7's texture is in layers of blurred colored, and in movement against stillness.

We'll see what developers do with it soon enough. In the meantime, check out the rest of David's post.

Source: David Barnard

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

A plea for human rather than digital authenticity

6 Comments

Great read and that's how Apple should've designed iOS7 !
Design isn't true design unless it enhances the functionality.

Also am I the only one that finds the control center panel too wishy washy. Like a cheap tracing paper...

Sent from the iMore App

No. You're not the only one. I've complained here and in other forums that the prevalence of translucency is distracting. You have newly subtle controls that you have to see and interact but they compete visually with all the stuff in the background that is irrelevant to what you're trying to do.

I love Apple design but they're not perfect. They have an occasional tendency toward form over function. Remember the much-maligned "hockey puck mouse"? Same thing with scroll bars in the current OS X. They disappear until you start scrolling. The problem with that is that scroll bars provide a visual clue that there's something to scroll to, which is sometimes difficult to know otherwise.

I generally like the look of iOS7 a lot (I'm not a developer so I've only seen screen shots) but I'd like them to pull back from this whole translucency thing. It's useless and distracting.

You've made a very valid point reg form over function and also beautifully highlighted the nagging issue of translucency over user interaction.

Wonder about the decision/evaluation process at Apple. Surely some in house designers would've noticed this and said well this looks odd !

What about the functional workflow of the elements and data management. Who designs that ?!

No one wants to scroll through pages of app icons/ folders to locate their app.
Worse - Try rearranging them on your phone and it turns into a nightmare as the pages increase.

They need a file/app management system if they were redesigning the whole thing ground up as they claim.

Sent from the iMore App

Text contrast even in beta 3 is very bad in iOS 7. Apple needs to address that badly. And personally some of the blur effect they use is a huge distraction.

I wish I had an extra phone laying around that I could put iOS 7 on, just to experience it. Reading all of the great articles here and elsewhere gets me very excited to experience the various concepts that I see laid before on these pages, whether I end up liking them or not. I have no eye when it comes to the aesthetics of an OS (I of course have opinions and personal likes, but they're not based on formal training) so reading about all the thought that actually goes into the creation of an OS's "feel" if fascinating to me.

Can't wait to get my ignorant (but learning) hands on it! :-)