Why do most smartphones make a clicking noise, like a camera shutter closing, when you take a picture with them? Why do the virtual pages of a book on a tablet appear to turn as you swipe across the screen?
The answer is skeuomorphic design, from the Greek words for a tool (skeuos) and shape (morph). It means designing a tool in a new medium that incorporates some of the features of its antecedents. These no long perform any necessary function but – like the unfurling of virtual paper across a digital screen – forge an intuitive link with the past, not to mention being (hopefully) attractive in their own right.
Though it sounds obscure, skeuomorphism is everywhere around us – from “retro” detailing on clothes to electric kettles shaped like their stove-top ancestors. It’s also a topic of much hand-wringing and angst in the tech world, thanks to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decision to shake up the design principles of his company’s iOS mobile operating system – one of the world’s touchstones for digital appearances. Continue reading