R.I.P Glossy UIs 1991-2013: A tribute


TL;DR? Post your favourite, most despised, glorious glossy abominations in the comments below.



It was a fine day in 1991 when the internet was opened up to the public. No one anticipated that it would take only 15 hours before the first glossy 'buy now' button to be unleashed upon the world. I lie, I have no idea how soon it happened, but by 1993 with tools like Kai's Power Tools, Corel (then quite popular) and the rise of Adobe's offerings and an under-swell of early web-developers-who-weren't-designers, the gloss couldn't help but emerge. Few may remember that it was also a time when the style>emboss photoshop text rose and had a similarly pervasive but thankfully limited time in the sun (Don't tell Marissa "I know just enough to be dangerous" Mayer).


Drop shadows, gradients and gloss became web staples, they extended off into the gridded virtual digital horizon. Then in 2007 something magical happened.. Windows Vista and iOS (not yet known as iOS) launched in what can only be described as one-two punch of of specular punishment. One can imagine the "we need to make our interface the native style of the web" pitch. Gloss leapt forth to become front and center in OS interface. Where sins of design were once contained within the browser and apps, there was now no getting away from it. There were no deaths in this war, only victims - like a zombie apocalypse - a scourge that infected all except maybe "we still like style>emboss photoshop text" Google (ixnay on the OEM inskays).


It first saw it's beginnings in Media Center, then a language more refined for ZuneHD and it's desktop client, Microsoft would be the unsung hero in this story. The Metro design language (as it was known then) of the Windows Phone Series 7 (yes, that IS what they called it) was a bright quasar at the center of the UI design galaxy. There was NO drop shadow, NO emboss, NO gloss in sight. What's more is that it came with a pitch; "Digitally Authentic". They reintroduced the words 'skeuomorphism' and 'chromeless' into the design vocabulary and so the die was cast. It was different, so different, and they had a damn good argument to back it up. Everyone knew they were right and it showed. One by one as websites were redesigned, as new apps and new versions of OSs were released the deglossening could be seen. This quasar was devouring all except for one notable holdout, Apple.

On September 18, 2013 iOS 7 will see it's public release. True to form, Apple's most notable feature will be what it leaves out.. the Gloss (to be fair, they're just moving it to the back of the plastic phones). It will represent Windows Phone's first ever victory over the iPhone, unfortunately not the one it deserves and it probably won't even get credit for it.


Rather than the other staple of the internet (fanboy wars) I'm hoping you'll post your favourite, most despised, glorious glossy abominations as a tribute to gloss in the comments below. Icons, scroll bars, buttons, links, headers, menus, apps, whole websites, there are many, so many. Every company and maybe even the designers in here have committed these crimes in the past, some have been slower than others to adapt. It is time to celebrate the brief moment between now and when gloss re-emerges as...


...the retro-cool trucker-art of the internet.