Whining about "skeumorphic" design, "authentically digital" design

I wrote this forum post in response to a comment bashing Apple's continued "skeumorphisms", icons and OS theming designed to make software look like real objects, or to represent them, ie a calendar that appears as a physical book etc. Another one that sticks out on my iPhone, as a Vegan I'd rather not have animal skin covered "books" and "to do lists" featuring cows milk and birds eggs. Yet thats how "Contacts" and "To Do lists" apps are portrayed on iOS5.1

Whats the *ideal* sort of OS? I like many ICS things, like the stark notification bar compared to iOS5's "linen and widgets and scrolling tickers" crap....but would we REALLY want an "authentically digital" experience?
Its always been this way, text onscreen, even in "neon futuristic LED block letters"


(notice the software is from 1982 but the reported date is "1980"....)

With Apple giving us this in 1984, icons, metaphors, images, "skeuomorphism" which many of us now complain bitterly of, even though we wouldnt have even HEARD of the term without Martias Duarte sitting on a broken couch next to Joshua Topolsky :-)

"one looks like bathroom signage at an airport" (Windows Phone 7) "the other type of stuff you're seeing is photorealistic...stitched leather...." (iOS) "you said it was cartoonish, and that bothers you Duarte: "it does" "...if you saw that attitude put on a website or magazine, you'd laugh at it, it would look childish."




How do you easily "show concepts" without using cliched icons, ie a floppy disk for "save", a pen on paper for "compose", a chain for "linking" something etc? Do we just have pure text, "SAVE", "COMPOSE", "LINK" "buttons", just text onscreen? Or do we instead "invent new, modern icons", in which case we have a whole new language where five small circles with a large square around them means "save" etc. I'd rather have a mix of the two. I love many ICS design elements, blue and purple beaming across a black background of outer space, little frills, but then its also very tedious too, in its own way, we've been there, done that back in the 1980's!




Ultimately, I think you'll find that we "power users" are a tiny percentage of total users of computers in 2012, while some of us may feel "liberated by the ultimate freedom of the command prompt, and no handholding, you can delete the entire system's software in a keystroke, no nanny state, but pure libertarianism", most would prefer solid reference points, clear icons and design. "oh, the floppy disk means save", presumably we'll be using similar icons and concepts ten years from now, even when Blu Ray and such physical media is laughable.

"We used to plug "USB2" disk drives into our computer, and they were HUGE, the size of your thumb!"

Isnt weird to think we're having a backlash away from trying to be "photo realistic", into now moving back into abstract "digital" motifs? Where "high tech" goes back to meaning LED clocks burning red, of TRON means The Matrix style computer worlds of flying neon code?


iOS 5.1 in 2012

Ios-5-screenshot_medium

Android Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012

Ics1-main-540x480_medium

Windows Phone 7 in 2012

Windows-phone-7-series-people-hub-screenshot_medium



What do you think? Floating "high resolution" text (we've used THAT term before too!) sitting in space? Or imitated real world objects to display a story, a meaning?