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Apple’s Jony Ive said to be bringing flat design to iOS 7 (techcrunch.com)
58 points by rachbelaid 1491 days ago | hide | past | web | 65 comments | favorite

Oh thank god... when that leather crap started to creep into OSX I took it as a sign that Apple had peaked and was on its way down.

Things should look like what they are. A computer display is not leather, so it should not look like leather. Making it look like leather is low-brow kitsch, like a fake electric fireplace or fake electric arc candles.

I too thought the end was near for the billion dollar tech behemoth when I saw that design of that one app they released for one of their products.

You must have loved the podcast app, then.

It seems as though you believe this is a binary issue, i.e. there is skeuomorphism, flat design, and nothing in between; of course this is not the case.

I hope Apple doesn't pursue the flat UI route a la Microsoft, not only is it not to my taste, but the use of subtle lighting effects have legitimate uses as cues to the user that an element is a button and can be pressed for example. Clearly this is not skeuomorphism as it's not a frivolous accessory but an aid for the user to understand the UI. This is not new either, buttons have been beveled since Mac OS 8 and Windows 3.0!

Essentially I think Apple will ditch the revolting skeuomorphism e.g. leather skinned apps, and continue to use subtle lighting effects and gradients to augment their UIs, and if they are truly planning a radical departure you can bet that it will be something rather original and not simply following Microsoft's lead. That is not Apple's DNA.

The flat "metro" style that Zune/Windows Phone have is best when it's clear that it's a UI you're meant to interact with. There's no need to show button-like things on a list that says "music phone contacts" - the fact you're in a touch UI means its obvious you're going to touch stuff.

For non-touch and complicated UIs, it's a lot less useful. See Office 2013's mess of a UI, which also added ALL CAPS as a design element that literally conveys zero information (there's no common trait caps has across the applications, it's purely a random design change for the sake of some really poor design sensibilities).

By that logic, the introduction of the Brushed Metal look in 1999 signaled Apple's many subsequent years of decline and abject failure.

What does a computer display look like? It looks like whatever is on it. When you have ultra high res displays with 32 bit color, well, what do you use all that for? Certainly not a 4 color 100% flat interface.

There's a difference between a 4 color interface and a 4 hue interface.

Edit: No I'm not an Apple fan, I genuinely have a newfound love of flat ui (not block ui).

I've been very hard on Flat UI in the past (and still dislike the overdone blocky look) but I've decided to embrace it after realizing it's true purpose.

It's NOT to destroy skeuomorphism. It's to destroy "forced focus design" in favor of "distraction free design". In the past we used gradients to aim the eyes towards a direction, shadows to make elements pop out of the page at a viewer, overly rounded corners to seem friendlier to the viewer, etc... We styled elements like this so we could draw attention to certain things and away from others. The same way people wear certain clothing to stand out or fade in with the crowd.

However, in this era of instant gratification online property owners not only realized that content is king but that there's too much shit to do and not enough time to do it. They need to give the viewer what they want and give it to as quickly as possible. Confusion breads negative feelings and pissed off viewers leave and don't return. So pages became lighter, more minimal, and lost unnecessary elements, and so designers adjusted to this.

By getting rid of the un-needed information on a page we no longer have to draw attention to one thing and away from the other because everything on the page is important. If it wasn't, it shouldn't be there in there in the first place. The buttons don't all need to have massive rounded corners and huge shadows because they're no longer lost in a sea of text and ads. They're easy to spot.

This is why you'll notice a lot of Flat UI sites are a lot more minimal than usual.

The Flat UI that I HATE is the blocky kind. Minecraft / 8-bit / designer out of college / what the hell's an a/b test inspired extreme flat ui. The kind where you don't know if that's a header with a colored background or a clickable button. The flat ui where everything on the site is so white white white you'd think the owners were clansman. That crap I hate. And it's only a few dozen A/B tests away from disappearing off of prominent sites.

I don't think this is "just a fad" anymore. There's a reason big companies are switching to it. Microsoft, Apple, Google. They're not stupid. They run A/B tests. They're not going to sacrifice market share, page views, usability, ease-of-use, and their bottom line just to blindly follow a design fad. That's just an insult to them. To say all Flat UI is backwards while the internet's biggest companies convert to it just goes to show how delusional and unknowledgeable we (especially I) can be. I apologize for my past remarks.

I personally think it's just the in-style at the moment. It's different than what we're used to, barebones, and uses vibrant colors -- the antithesis of recent popular styles. Some seasons blacks and grays and navies are in, other seasons women like wearing greens and oranges and yellows. UX-wise, though, flat has more problems, but people might not care because it looks so fresh.

Agreed, it'll probably settle down in a few seasons to something moderate (i.e., neither the garishness of apple's calendar, nor the usability nightmare of the WP8 app on windows.) I just wish we won't forget the lessons of these experiments, but most likely we'll just be reinventing the whole thing again and again. (Recent example: the horrible 90's emoticons craze is back in messaging apps these days, except they're now higher resolution and are called 'stickers'.)

Do you mean Emoji? I've never heard it called stickers.

Stickers is the name Facebook are giving to their version...


Facebook, Path, MessageMe, and more call it stickers to differentiate from emoji. Stickers are generally larger and can be used on their own, while emoji are used with other text.

I don't buy it. If your design philosophy is rooted in "this time is different" then it's a pretty shallow design philosophy.

In other words, debates about "flat UI" vs "skeumorphism" (which is a false dichotomy imho, but I digress) should not be based upon things like "this era of instant gratification", it should be based upon how well the design serves the purpose of all design: effective and enjoyable use by humans.

The reason skeumorphism exists as an idea is not because it is used to draw the eye to something, it's to create affordances to the user by leveraging their past experiences. This can range anywhere from "this sticks out on the page and can be pushed" to "this reminds me of my real desk calendar."

Insofar as the Flat UI concept neglects to create these natural affordances it fails. The only argument one can make that draws upon the current status quo to defend it is if the world has moved on so fast that natural affordances created by depth and shadow can now be made just as effectively to most people by drawing a colored square instead. I'm skeptical that this is true, since three dimensional vision is pretty core to the human experience and human biology.

I think what we'll see from Apple will not be an abandonment of skeumorphism in general but instead (in typical Ives fashion) a distilling of it down to its core. Expect depth and shadow, but with a laser-like focus towards using it to create affordances instead of add unnecessary flare. Expect its use to be toned down both in prevalence and also in degree. The cliched example of the leather nav bar has never served any real purpose wrt affordances, so I don't think Apple will be clinging too tightly to it.

I would say that non-flat design isn't for "aiming the eyes" - drop shadows, bevels, and gradients help things to stand out and communicate affordance in a way that's immediately compatible with the human visual cortex. Flat design is a constrained form - it's like saying you'll paint a painting with only two colours, or write a song with only two notes.

Keep in mind that your visual cortex responds more to difference in colours and spatial frequencies more so than it does to flat expanses of colour. Things like drop shadows and borders add much-needed high-frequency acutance [1] at the edges of shapes, which helps with object recognition.

You see this all the time in the real world - take a look at the logo on these cans [2] and note the white border surrounded by the black border. Going from the base colour like this, all the way to white and then back to black effectively saturates the spatial frequencies at the edge of the shape and forces it to stand out from the background - I'm holding one of these cans in my hand right now and boy oh boy does that logo ever pop.

You see the similar techniques around all the time - look at the text labels on Google Maps, or the black borders around video subtitles. Similarly, see the gradient and drop shadows on the icons on an iPhone home screen - those are there to make them visually recognisable as objects, as opposed to rounded rectangles.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acutance

[2] http://i.imgur.com/WWRDsiE.jpg

Edit: further demonstrations of your visual cortex responding to differentials:

TEMPORAL: http://imgur.com/iqMFv5z.gif

If you stare at the center cross long enough, your retina fatigues and the pink dots start to disappear. Likewise, the rotating absence of a dot is replaced by green.

SPATIAL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/HermannGr...

The sharp spatial frequencies (unlike anything you would find in nature), aligned at right angles to one another interfere with one another so strongly that you start to see dots at the grid intersections (some may find this stronger than others, I sometimes get this effect from the Windows 8 homescreen, for chrissakes).

I don't think the appeal is in the minimalism or the lack of visual garnishes. It's that these panes and quickly changing elements are fast and they appear thin, lightweight and therefor emphasize the speed. You can see the light glowing through the panel. It's energizing.

Metal or drop shadow or physical looking sliders imply solidity and weight. That was a desired thing in the era when we were getting used to screen interfaces. But metal implies that it doesn't move fast. You can't replace an interface with a new modal one that quickly or it looks unreal and weird, like you are flinging metal cabinetry around !

> I've been very hard on Flat UI in the past (and still dislike extreme Flat UI) but I've decided to embrace it after--

--after Apple declared it to be in style.

No, that's not what you meant, but it rings so true in the tech buzzosphere.

Poor guy, I don't think they should have downvoted you. Have an upvote. Btw, I can't stand Apple. Not my style, not my thing. Tried to convert several times and went straight back to Windows. I hate the whole authoritative cult like brand.

My decision is based on the new flat UI I've seen already working on Google's Gmail and YouTube properties as well as Microsoft's. They're not perfect but they're definitely heading in a better direction with flat ui. If I recall, Microsoft sort of started it with the Windows Metro look, then Google really sealed the deal by converting gmail and youtube into flat ui sites.

It's interesting that you consider YouTube a positive example. During their flat transition they seem to have thrown out many features that I consider important for the platform. As an example, I lately can't figure out anymore how to jump from a video to 'more from this user'. They splat their semi useful recommendation everywhere instead.

The flat look in gmail does seem to take out a lot of the visual noise.

Here's metro influence gone awry: http://www.pepsi.com/en-us/d

It's pretty close to a flat look, but I still notice some subtle gradients going on. But talk about tile explosion!

I understand the visceral reaction to the fake leather and hatred of metaphors taken too far, but I wouldn't go expecting iOS 7 to look like Metro.

I'd rather expect a toning down, a reduction – not banishment of gradients and all texture and personality. Look at the iOS 6 App Store redesign and iTunes 11 for visual hints.

Just as OS X toned toned the gloss and lost the pinstripes, iOS too will have its refinement.

For a similar flattening done in a good way, look at the window chrome in the Windows 8 desktop compared with Windows 7.

Not Metro or Modern, the desktop.

Window titlebars have lost the peekaboo effect and use a solid color instead. The min/max/close buttons do a simple color change with a quick fade confined to their own little rectangle, instead of glowing around the edges. It's a subtle but pleasant improvement.

I don't like the Start screen, but not because of its flatness. It's the tiny text that doesn't obey my screen DPI setting and the gratuitous animation that really bothers my eyes. But that's OK, I use Start8 which brings back a non-animated start menu with the correct font size.

I loved the use of Real Life Metaphors :)

> Look at iTunes 11 for visual hints.

Welp, we're boned.

This kind of thing puts a smile on my face, because it breaks the omnipotence of one company in the industry. Making the market reflect its true colors, which is competition. In this case, it was Microsoft who got there first, and not Apple.

I hope this kind of innovation is maintained, because we the users benefit from this. In so many ways.

I wonder if Microsoft hadn't invested everything into flat design, would Apple had moved away from skeuomorphism so fast ? I think not. I hope to see Apple fighting for the design lead again.

I doubt Ive is going to take it as flat as Metro. It seems more likely that it will take cues from recent changes like iOS 6's App Store and Passbook, which dropped the shiny glass appearance but still have some amount of lighting on them.

My personal hope is that they push it a bit flatter than that to something like what Google did in their new iOS Maps app. We'll see.

I agree. Apple will try to do it is own thing with Falt UIs. And that is also great. The fact that things are progressing and Apple is again willing to experiment on that front is all that matters. Google will have its own take on Flat UIs as well, and that is cool too.

On the other hand, 9to5mac says:

The new interface is said to be “very, very flat,” according to one source. Another person said that the interface loses all signs of gloss, shine, and skeuomorphism seen across current and past versions of iOS. Another source framed the new OS as having a level of “flatness” approaching recent releases of Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Metro” UI.

So maybe I'm wrong. At the very least I expect it to keep the rounded corners instead of taking things to uniformly shaded boxes.

You might be right, but I think the shift is because of Job's death and Forstall's ousting.

True. But I do wondered, if Steve Jobs would have responded to Microsoft with another kind of UI other than flat. That is one thing that Jobs was great at it. Creating trends. In this scenario, Apple will be basically following the trend already started in the industry and solidified by Microsoft's push.

I think Steve Job might have come up with something different than Flat.

Jobs was very good at ignoring existing work and claiming Apple's version was a revolutionary new invention.

I'm no expert in design, but when trends change so consistently, I have to wonder whether this is like automobile design or fashion where UI design kind of just "rotates" and churns indefinitely rather than head towards "the true answer"

I have no idea and no opinion on which is better etc, just genuinely curious.

Fashion and automobile design are quite mature fields, though, compared to human machine interfaces. This is reflected in the fact that most changes in digital interfaces include shifts in terms of functionality. These kinds of changes are very rare in fashion: pants (either BE or AE) all work mostly the same -- and so do cars. The choices made seem to affect mostly aesthetics as opposed to functions.

I guess it's possible that at some point the major interface methods will be standardized to such a degree that future changes will be aesthetic, to avoid putting off people, if nothing else. For instance, there was considerable resistance to MS changing the functional interface of Office not too long ago. But even mature consumer interfaces such as windowing systems continue to introduce additional functionality, although I guess some might characterize those changes as mere window dressing (heh), as well.

Some computer interfaces do head towards what some conceive to be the true answer, with a slow stream of incremental improvements, e.g. the Unix shell. But that's a professional interface subject to other kinds of pressures than consumer technology.


Automotive design has changed radically around function - safety and aerodynamics being the most obvious visible changes which could be trivialized as styling.

Ok, obviously you're right about that, but I was thinking just in terms of the human-machine interface. Even then, automotive engineering is much less "stale" than fashion, and any new technology may push towards more radical change.

Touch screen navigation, voice control, DVD players, third row seating, dynamic stability control, launch mode, dial-in suspension...etc.

Does automobile design really churn? I know occasionally companies try to revive classic styles (the PT Cruiser or Ford Thunderbird) but those don't seem to catch on and spread into a general fad. What you think of as the 50s style, or the 80s jagged style haven't been revived and I very much doubt they ever will.

> 80s jagged style

Hard creases are very in right now, as are sweeping contours (90s) -- today's style looks like 80s + 90s + modern facelifting.

Yes, that's how it works and is why the TechCrunch article calls flat design a "fad".

It's strange, because it seems to be a regression to Visual Basic and Hypercard aesthetics in some ways. Embossed buttons? Pshaw!

While it's possible, it's highly doubtful Apple will radically shift away from their current look. Microsoft are currently associated with the whole flat-design UI trend and I can only speculate that changing to a completely flat look would only fuel the speculation that Apple are out of ideas and lack vision to keep innovating thus driving their share price down further and undoing all of their hard work over the years. You're only as good as your last hit as they say in the music industry.

I am envisioning if Apple does change to a flat UI look, it'll have their own little twist on it. I think it's a given they'll drop the skeuomorphism from iOS, because lets face it, skeuomorphic elements like leather books and note paper backgrounds look dated when used anywhere (not just mobile applications). I would expect things will get flatter, but evident by their latest Mac OS and iTunes redesigns which I think give us a sneak peek of the direction: not completely flat, still dabs of light & aluminium as well as rounded corners on things. Whatever the end result is, I think we can all agree Apple needs to evolve. The iOS interface has remained basically untouched since 2007, it's time for a change because the aging operating system is starting to show its age.

I can't see Apple being able to do this even if they tried. So many apps in iOS rely on the standard elements, mix them with others, make overlays using them and so forth. For them to "remake" the OS now would break tens of thousands of apps, and to offer a new UI as an upgrade would stunt adoption.

No matter what happens in this scenario, Apple is left with two half interfaces. Not clean at all.

They could make redesigned standard elements opt-in, so old apps would still use the old styles and continue to work.

(I've certainly seen apps change behavior simply by being recompiled by a newer SDK, so there must be something in the binary loader that sets a bunch of compability flags or something)

Right. This is how Aqua migrated to Brushed Metal

I would imagine that there will be some kind of 'legacy mode'. Much like the (botched) transition to Auto Layout, or the move to the 4" iPhone 5 screen.

A year on and I'm still using a multitude of letterboxed apps.

Even if they don't go as far as I wish they would (complete UI redesign) I'll be fairly happy with modest updates to the overall UI. I'm not a big fan of Win8, but I've quite liked the MetroUI look on their phones. A nice middle ground between the two would be a great update.

Personally I would have liked if iOS kept the skeumorphism look and feel. I prefer that to Flat Design. Now I guess all the platforms would look and feel similar :( (Android, Windows and iOS) I hope iOS 7 look and feel much different.

I agree, that design style strongly distinguished Apple from Android and MS.

On the other hand, it will make it much easier for developers to create cross-platform apps that don't look like complete aliens in one OS or the other.

I really hate the flat design. I prefer to see some depth as a indicator that something is clickable & active.

Android 4.x/Holo doesn't get enough credit for absolutely nailing the right balance. It's "flat", but has depth.

Going purely by the strength of their design team, I'd expect iOS 7 to be closer to Android-flat rather than Metro-flat.

"The changes would likely be welcomed by most, though they could result in a negative reaction from users who’ve grown used to the current Apple way of doing things."

What extraordinary insight…

If so, will Microsoft sue Apple for stealing their look and feel? #irony

If I was somewhere high up in Microsoft I'd serious think about it. Nothing too serious, just dragging them into court would be enough.

What goes around comes around.

I'm sure Dieter Rams used some nice textures here and there. Ive can steal that too.

Unsure why you were downvoted - Apple has borrowed heavily from Dieter Rams in the past decade or so. Heck, the current iPad Music app is a straight lift from the famous Braun SK radio/record players.

That being said, there's no real reason why Apple has to use textures anywhere. Dieter Rams designed physical products which by their nature must have some texture or another. Having texture is purely optional in a digital product.

This seems like blog spam based on blog spam based on "sources". I'd take it with a grain of salt.

I'd also be very skeptical that Ive would create a sweeping change to a formula that works so well currently (Regardless of what the technorati think, joe consumer loves the iPhone UI. Small gizmos and refreshes are all that's needed to keep the standard consumer sufficiently happy), especially with Cook in charge.

A better article could probably be condensed into: "According to sources it looks like Apple will follow the latest design trends and begin incorporating flat design into their products." Which is a no-brainer and hardly sells adspace.

I wish on ios I could pick a theme and stay with it. I dislike how every page is white and every other black with no rhyme or reason. At night the white screens are especially blinding even at lowest brightness. Sometimes negative works, but not when screens are half-white, half-black as is the trend lately.

Sigh... I miss the days of Windows 95? when I chose a theme and all apps had to follow it.

Given the discussions they've reportedly been having with Yahoo http://mobile.theverge.com/2013/4/9/4206794/apple-and-yahoo-...

I wonder if Yahoo's new, aesthetically pleasing IMO, weather app is an indication of things to come to iOS.

Just when my poor parents were starting to get the hang of using their new iPhones... On a more serious note, I know it's never going to happen, but it would be nice if Apple would just create a Theme system and allow the user to choose how they want their default apps and controls displayed.

I think flat UI is horrible. Outlook 2013 looks like piles of words. I can't tell where one email stops and the next starts. I would take leather trim over that any day.

One of my favorite mods for OSX is to revert the dock back to "2D" mode. The mirrored table effect is not to my taste.

I think its about time.

That said, a complete UI overhaul is.. I just see it as unlikely all at once, more of a gradual thing.

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