Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Skeuomorphism vs. Pure Digital

I would like to call the opposite of Skeuomorphism as "Pure Digital" and not "Flat Design", atleast till we get the right word for it. Even in real world there are things that are flat.

Skeuomorphism is also a style of designing digital interfaces but using real world visual metaphors. Eg make a digital button look like a real world button or make a digital clock look like a real world clock. I’m not a hater of Skeuomorphism but that style restricts interaction and visual designers in making full use of the digital world where there are no real world rules.

Eg by basing your design on the interaction and visual elements of a real world analog clock, you are not allowing yourself to think how you can show the time (I didnt say clock. Clock is real world) in a fresh new more intuitive and fun way without losing the goodness of what a real world clock conveys. If you think ‘pure digital’ then you may be able to come with a completely new take at it. Digital is new and we just realized that there is more potential. Like how we started web design using print principles but then now realized it wont scale for all digital devices. There is no concept of scaling in print.

Rus Yusupov, the creative director of the Vine video sharing app, said.
Old things are beautiful, but new things should look, well… new. That’s why Vine doesn’t have a play button. It also doesn’t have a pause button, a timeline scrubber, a blinking red light, or dials and a brushed-metal finish to give you the impression that you’re using a dusty video camera.

Android Designer Roman Nurik did a “fun exercise” to see how skeuomorphism stacks up to some of Dieter Rams’ ten principles. Its Interesting.


Suruchika said...

completely agree with this. In fact, though I am not too old in the design industry I feel sad to see many interaction designers who have a background in arts, to think one of the best interaction designs would be a real-world metaphor created digitally. Their whole solution building is driven by this wrong notion about IXD. But then they are proud to be called as IX/UX designers :P

Unknown said...

I dont think there are rights and wrongs in this approach. As i said Microsoft showed the thinking and possibilities very recently. So its something people didnt realize for a long time. Also we were taught to base interaction concepts on real world metaphors to make things easy for the user to understand. Naturally interface design also mimicked real world things. I think its the right time to break out as people are quite comfortable with computers, internet and how they work etc. They are ready to take up something new.

Apple celebrates real world materials beyond plastic. Also their products are for normal users. Natural intuitiveness and sophistication are a part of their design thinking. I think Skeuomirphism works for them as they dont really think of making a clock which flies time in from the left and flies out to right.

Even though Microsoft showed the way, I think Google products are the ones that will take pure digital design forward as their products were always for advanced users. They expect their users to change their mental model with every feature addition.

To summarize, i think its all about what you design and for who. I was just making a point that Skeuomirphism limits the imagination when you design digital products. But I'm not against it. When done well Skeuomirphism can be used to bring out some specific emotions in a user. eg Luxury.