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iOS 7: So What Does Flat Design Even Mean?

by Brandon Russell | May 24, 2013May 24, 2013 1:30 pm PST

WWDC 2013 - iOS 7 on iPad and iPhone 5

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iOS 7 Redesign Features Lots of Black and White

We still don’t know much about the heavily redesigned iOS 7 for sure, but Sir Jony Ive and the rest of Apple are hard at work completely revamping the mobile operating system that Steve Jobs and former iOS chief Scott Forstall established with the original iPhone. Rumor has it Ive and Apple will ditch the […]

Under the guidance of Jony Ive, Apple is gearing up to introduce a vastly different mobile OS in June. Less flair, more functionality. Many of the skeuomorphic principals present throughout iOS from day one are reportedly being taken out, replaced by what sources call “flat design.” As Gizmodo explains, that means ditching the familiar analog world in favor of digital interfaces.

Jony Ive has argued that Apple’s current love affair with skeuomorphic designs doesn’t have longevity. How ever familiar something like Notepad, GameCenter or Calendar might be, it doesn’t give Apple much room to iterate and evolve its beloved OS. When you think about it, iOS has largely looked the same—some minor visual improvements here and there—since the first iPhone hit.

By moving to a flatter design, Gizmodo explains that that could translate to getting rid of beveled edges, gradients, shadows and reflections. Perhaps the two biggest examples right now of flat design is Google Now and Windows Phone/Windows 8—Google Now being more appearing closer to something that Apple might implement. The latest iOS 7 rumors claim Ive is employing a lot of black and white tones, and Google Now is essentially an exact model of that — though it’s admittedly more white.

Skeuomorphic designs used to serve a purpose in that they gave visual cues to help users feel more comfortable. But this is 2013. Apple used tricks like this all the way back in 1984 for its Lisa desktop. But concepts have evolved, and companies such as Google and Microsoft have proven that those extra details and visual flourishes aren’t always necessary. From a designer standpoint, Gizmodo says, those extraneous details don’t support functionality. “Don’t create a fake front just to make users feel safe.”

Jony Ive has proven his design expertise in the physical world, and it’s quite clear he wants to assert his vision onto iOS 7. It’ll be flat, yes, and maybe less colorful than what current users are used to. But sources say it’ll still be the same familiar experience. That just means less leather, and no more felt interfaces.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...