I’ve recently enjoyed two excellent articles by two guys (intriguingly both called Allan) celebrating a new era of “flat design”, and ultimately about how—as interactive designers—we should embrace the medium with which we work, and steadily reject the skeumorphic, dropshadow-y hellhole we’ve found ourselves in. While I like a touch of dropshadow as much as the next man, when overdown with leather textures and heavy gradients, they get a little nauseating. These posts are the best I’ve read at offering a reason why.
From Allan Grinshtein of LayerVault’s post, “The Flat Design Era”:
Well-loved products on the web share a similar design aesthetic, with roughly the same kinds of bevels, inset shadows, and drop shadows. For designers, achieving this level of “lickable” interface is a point of pride. For us, and for a minority of UI designers out there, it feels wrong.
We interpret recent shots taken at skeumorphism as a sign of the coming of “Honest Design.” Much like we were not too long ago, designers working for the web are getting fed up with the irrational, ugly shortcuts being praised as good design.
If your product philosophy is to create small, lean, products why doesn’t your design follow?
Svpply’s eBay’s Allan Yu who composed a terrific (and hilarious) response:
I think the use of skeuomorphism definitely helped bridge our connection between the tangible and the intangible. It’s been a huge catalyst in maturing our relationship with the web, however, when I look at that relationship now I find that the majority of people understand the web as the web. We no longer need that analogy to make it tangible. The web has earned its own sense of tangibility especially with the use of smartphones and tablets where we can literally hold the web in our hands. With that being said, skeuomorphism now has lost its purpose and seems more like a cheap trick that masks the true quality of an UI
Remember in college where one of the first lessons they teach you is to understand your medium? Well our medium isn’t the “screen” its really…glass.
And because we’re designing on glass, at least for me, designing a button that creates a sense of reflection and depth using reflective properties not only seem redundant since your glass is already reflective, but dishonest. In real life, when a button is pushed, you can feel its give and its bounce, but on a phone or on the screen, there is a lack of that physical feedback. A physicality that your mind knows exists but in skeuomorphic reality it doesn’t. So for me at least, it becomes one of those moments where reality doesn’t meet expectations and that disappoints me.
Skeumorphism is as much of an UI as the frosting is as a cupcake. Yes, the frosting is delicious, its the part that says “you should eat this”, but we all know it’s the cake part itself that’s doing all the grunt work. It’s the part that you hold, it’s the part that you actually eat, it’s the part that fills you, and it’s the part where you can slather that copious amount of frosting on. The cupcake is the UI, the frosting is just the bells and whistles, the pointless skeurmorphism that is slathered on top.