Is this the Declaration of Independence from Skeuomorphia

Skeuomorphia has been a hot topic lately. It is a buzz word that has really lost its meaning. Anti-Apple fanboys love to overemphasize, others villainize it, still some love it, but the majority of people do not really care. There has been a significant movement towards flatter design, and I would like to write about my thoughts of whether we are declaring our independence from skeumorphia. I want honest discourse and thought.

What is good design?

I'll take some ideas from Dieter Rams.

Good design is honest. It leads, but does not fool you with false promises. It is what it is and does not try to pretend it is something else.

Good design is also long lasting. It isn't tied to ephemeral trends, and it is not reliant on a physical object that may not be popular in the future.

Good design is as little design as necessary. Minimalism is needed, but minimalism should not be achieved by sacrificing user experience.

These three areas are where skeuomorphic design fails in my opinion. However, ssing skeuomorphic elements does not guarantee bad design either. Bad design will always be bad design. But that doesn't mean it is the pinnacle of design to me. Where used properly, it can help a user familiarize with the UI, but it is not a truthful UI. A book on a phone is not a real life book. Notes on a phone are not notes in real life. They may share the same purpose and goal, but they are not the same, and bring them together is a dishonest. Also, some of Apple's skeuomorphia relies of antiquated physical metaphors like the podcast app. Some design is just over-design as well. Find My Friends is a prime example of where textures aren't needed.

To the point, skeuomorphia can still be useful. Floppy disk icons are an example of a metaphor that is skeuomorphic but serves a purpose, for now at least. That does not mean that we should stop improving. Skeuomorphia may be a stop gap from the transfer to the real to the digital, but it should not stay for long. We can do better.

Are we ready to declare independence?

My answer is yes with an asterisk. We can already see great apps like Twitterific, Clear, and Letterpress that use flatter design languages. However, we are not just going to abandon skeuomorphism. We will slowly ween ourselves off of it until we are comfortable in the digital. Are you exciting for a cleaner, flatter design aesthetic in the future? I am. Are you excited?

What do you think about these links:

Daring Fireball on the Topic

Flat Design Era