Skeumorphism is the concept of designing based on real-world counterparts and designing for interaction is the art of encouraging people to play. Our goal is to entice users to explore and lead them through a journey that feels natural and exciting. With new platforms emerging that try to bridge the gap between the digital and real world, skeuomorphism has a future.
Did skeuomorphism die?
In 2013, Apple announced they were dropping their skeuomorphic design in iOS to implement a flat design style. Sure this approach had already been adopted by its competitors, but the news of Apples design switch was considered by many as, ‘the death of skeuomorphism in the digital design age.’ Over the last few years digital design has been escaping the screen as we explore other avenues like virtual reality and smart wearables. Perhaps our views on the fate of skeuomorphism were a slight ov.
New digital platforms
More companies are launching products on platforms, that require literal interaction rather than clicking or tapping. The initial design strategy for a new platform is to reflect what people are used to. Introducing users to something new is much easier, if you can compare their experience with something more familiar. Of course smart watches could have intelligent methods to tell the time, but a traditional clock face is still the preferred visual. Virtual reality could send users into bizarre fantasy worlds where nothing feels human, we choose to recreate real-world scenery and objects. Even smart speakers could operate through an intelligent new methodology, yet we prefer to use native human languages that we’re used to. We’re not talking about skeuomorphic textures and literal digital copies of the real-world, but a semi-skeuomorphic replication that suits the real-world deployment of new technologies.
Designers will always try to innovate through experimental creativity, but we may have reached an age where skeuomorphism is the correct approach for the platform. We cannot alter the design of nature, so why wouldn’t we take from it when building virtual reality products. The goal is often to make users feel like they’re in the real world and skeuomorphism is:
“the design concept of making items represented resemble their real-world counterparts.”
So why stop at using it as an introduction when it reflects the purpose of the product? Why force current design trends into products which clearly benefit from the old?
Is design moving backwards to accommodate the future?
We’re not talking about backtracking to using skeuomorphism like training wheels as we did with early computing. We’re talking about using skeuomorphism to create more immersive experiences. It’s helpful that we can call upon it to transition users over to new technology. That doesn’t mean we’re using it to ease people in, so that we can ditch it again once people understand these new platforms. We’re using it because it legitimately suits the environment and enhances the experience of these technologies in a future, where we’re no longer trying to overpower the real world with the digital world, but to converge them.
Skeuomorphism has a future!