Skeuomorphs

Seth Godin:

The original CD ROMs, for example, often had a home screen that started with a bookshelf, and you clicked on the ‘book’ you wanted to ‘open’ (excessive use of quotations intentional). Here’s the thing: bookshelves are a great idea if you want to store actual books on an actual shelf. They’re a silly way to index digital information, though.

I agree that design can’t get in the way of how we use something, but Skeuomorphic design also adds a level of familiarity to the new digital products we’re using. I’m still a fan of using it.



  • http://twitter.com/josevazquez Jose Vazquez

    I agree, it can add a degree of familiarity. The problem is that only works if the user is actually familiar with the old/original product. Most people today probably wouldn’t benefit from a rotary dialer simulated onscreen for a telephone for example.

    I ran into trouble when I started to learn about guitars and effects. When I first did that, I immediately plugged my guitar into a computer. All the guitar related software insists on using pedal/effects/amp/microphone metaphors. This is great to people who have used the real things and immediately click with the interface. But for a total n00b like me, the metaphors just got in the way. I had a lot of trouble understanding how an “amp” was different than an “effect” from my perspective they both look like things that make my guitar sound different. Sure… now I’ve learned what it all meant and it makes sense. I’ve even gone back and bought some “real” gear. But I still don’t think the interface helped.

  • DanielSw

    I’m with both Jim and José. Familiarity is of course the key. Though jacks, dials, toggle switches, and knobs may be fun for us old timers to twiddle, the graphic paradigms have to keep pace with ever-changing audiences. The long-term trend in electronics has been towards more automation and towards miniaturization–even to the extent of vanishment in some cases! But modern human/machine interfaces still require this “familiarity.” The venerable arrow icon will most likely survive well into the future, and skeuomorphs of it may remain generally welcome. But skeus of books should be flexible enough to bridge generations of readers. For example, though I still think page flips are cool in ebook readers, I’ve switched to scroll mode as I find it easier. The main challenge for designers is to remain relevant. One has to be able to take the viewpoint of the end user and be able to communicate clearly via whatever medium is appropriate, that being in some cases skeuomorphs.

  • http://twitter.com/NWNirvana The Dictator

    I LOVE Skeuomorphs! Can you imagine how boring and lame Garageband, Maps, iBooks, iPhoto, etc. would look without skeuomorphism? Go get a boring ass wp8 phone if you want ‘digital design’.

  • http://twitter.com/NWNirvana The Dictator

    I LOVE Skeuomorphs! Can you imagine how boring and lame Garageband, Maps, iBooks, iPhoto, etc. would look without skeuomorphism? Go get a boring ass wp8 phone if you want ‘digital design’.

  • ompus

    Objects and Software should be no more difficult to use and understand than necessary. Somethings will always be complicated, but a good design clarifies as much as possible.

    If skeuomorphic design increases usability, than use it. As long as its presence is the result of a thoughtful and deliberate process intended to serve functionality, there isn’t a problem. EVER. When skeuomorphic design is mere bling, or ham-handly done, THEN you find horrid short-cuts which conflate and confuse.

    Seth Godin, by equating skeuomorphism with failure, throws the baby out with the bath-water. That’s like throwing out your hammer because it makes a bad screwdriver.

  • lucascott

    I’m split in this about how same as I am about the IAP issue. I think that both can be over and under used.

    Most of the folks I see complaining about skeuomorphic design are those that don’t need it. They are advanced users that have been doing this for ages and are happy to play in terminal etc. but they forget that they are not the target audience in almost all cases. More like their toddlers and grandparents are. So logically picked skeuomorphs should be used.

    It’s the overuse that bugs me. Especially when it seems to come at the cost of quality control. I don’t mind that the notes app on my iPad is made to look like a legal pad (although I prefer white pads and different fonts). But if time is spent on that little tear when there are bugs in the software what was the point. That was my issue with iOS 6. Too many, in my opinion, bits of unneeded fluff were added while useful features disappeared and there were major bugs. THAT should not happen. Deciding what color to paint the walls should come way after making sure the foundation is sound, not before it.

  • http://twitter.com/bmauter Brian Mauter

    Books stored on a bookshelf at a library also had a card catalog as a proper index. Where’s that skeuomorph?

    Point is, some things benefit from skeuomorphic design–others don’t. Overuse of it is just as bad as underuse.