Jony Ive expected to ditch reality for greater minimalism

By , Nov 1, 2012

Do you love that linen-like background when logging into your iOS or Mac device? Well, it could be the most visible fatality as minimalism overtakes realism and design chief Jonathan Ive takes the reigns once held by iOS honcho Scott Forstall. That noise you hear is the splintering of the Jobs era and Cook era at Apple.

Forstall, who headed iOS development, was also the chief cheerleader of the late Steve Jobs. Jobs loved what design geeks term skeuomorphism, a Greek word meaning a tool’s shape. In computer design, placing realistic objects – such as linen on a screen or ebooks stored in a wooden bookshelf – are used to lend a sense of assurance, like seeing a familiar face among a crowd of strangers.

But with Jobs gone, voices within the Cupertino, California firm which simply hated this sort of design gained volume. A particularly vehement enemy of Forstall’s design philosophy: Industrial design guru Jony Ive…

As part of a recent shakeup, Ive, a huge part of Apple’s design prowess, recently took charge of designing both hardware and software for iOS and OS X devices.

“You can be sure that the next generation of iOS and OS X will have Jony’s industrial design aesthetic all over them”, an unnamed Apple designer told the New York Times. Gone are the days of leather textured-Address Books and hello to “clean edges, flat surfaces”.

It is not a wholesale love-fest at Apple, though. One unnamed Apple software employee told the Times Ive “would have to work to win credibility” among Forstall fans. The employee said he hadn’t seen Ive in a meeting.


Ive’s gonna get rid of leather in Notes, Calendar and Reminders.

However, the knives were out when designers spoke of Apple’s software backgrounds and icons “like putting horses in front of a car, basically.”

A University of Washington professor likened Jobs-influenced Apple designs to using Greek columns in modern architecture. Axel Roesler, associate professor of the school’s interaction design department, said Apple has “a responsibility” to remain at the vanguard of designs.


An example of the skeumorphic design in Apple’s Find My Friends app

But perhaps most stinging for Apple is how Microsoft – known more for producing gray applications for bean-counters – is be lauded for its designwork. Indeed, a recent Microsoft designer called Apple’s graphics “kind of old school”.

Putting Ive in charge of overall product design makes sense for Apple attempting to retain young consumers who might be attracted by Samsung or Microsoft. Industrial design is what gave us the cold and sterile kitchen and homes that resemble more a New York City loft, complete with exposed pipes and ductwork.

However, Jobs must be rolling over in his grave to see his attempt to humanize computing go in a 180-degree opposite direction. The decision to promote Ive could give birth to a market for apps that breathe the warmth back into Apple software.

What do you think?

Does Ive need to moderate his minimalism to keep consumers who like Apple’s current designs?

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  • http://twitter.com/BUSfromRUS Alexander Bus

    I liked these skeuomorphic elements. But Ive is a great man, I don’t think we will be disappointed.

    • Devadath .C.M.

      very true .. nicely said !

    • ReanimationXP

      I can’t say I disagree, but I worry what he’ll do. This so-called “skeuomorphism” brought a lot of appeal to iOS imo. Made things look both polished and practical. It’s an important part of roping the not-so-tech-savvy into a brand new ecosystem like iOS. I think Forstall got it right.

      I agree they need some updates.. but Ive is a hardware and self-proclaimed “materials” person. I don’t think he necessarily belongs in software, lest iOS turn into minimalist “squares town” like Windows Phone and the new Gmail design, both of which I detest.

    • Joseph Kool

      What makes Ive a great man? what is his great contribution to humanity?

  • Jordan Dixon

    Kinda cool article, however I got really annoyed when you put “However, Jobs must be rolling over in his grave” like you know what he’s thinking. Unless it was a joke?

    • http://www.facebook.com/masonicninja Michael Scott Allen

      Fair point. I worked for and with Steve Jobs in the 80′s. I only can say one thing about him. If the idea was good and you could prove it, he was on board. Even if it failed, it provided usable data. The look and feel of iOS and its apps have begun to feel a little disconnected. Jailbreakers theme in order to restore a level of uniformity; myself included. I think Jony’s input is going to bring a level of cohesiveness to iOS that we don’t have right now, and have been clamoring for since iOS 2.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    i like the softening iof the UI BUT IOS is very very very boring now so I hope Johnny has a plan to fix that…lol

    • Obsidian71

      How is an Operating System supposed to be “exciting”. I think too many people are expecting their OS to entertain them. What I want a UI that isn’t a bear to use and lets me route my data properly with good security. I don’t want to “Myspace” my iPhone.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        IOS is static and stagnant and boring.. FACT.. its time for some new ness to it..

      • http://www.facebook.com/corey87 Corey Evans

        Then Jailbreak it and customise the hell out of it. Right now my iPhone looks near identical to Galaxy 3 as I have ported the widgets to PerPageHTML and all the icons to winterboard. You’re on a jailbreak site, if you don’t like something about your phone, change it,

      • Obsidian71

        How should Apple spice it up?

  • https://twitter.com/CAST2000 Luis Castro

    I think the whole skeuomorphic elements of Mac OS and iOS have been blown out of proportion. Is it really that bad looking? I don’t thinks so. I’ve found it quite useful in fact. Take for example in Mountain Lion, when viewing Mission Control on my 13″ MacBook, skeuomorphic provides an easy way for me to distinguish between open applications when dealing with my small screen. It clearly allows me to notices the difference between Notes, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Finder, GameCenter, etc.

    • Obsidian71

      Ranting about Skeumorphism (which most people didn’t even understand the definition a year ago) is the new faux hipster thing.

      • a smit

        lol people and fads are funny …. (especially younger people)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lintex Leo J. Campos

    I don’t know what the F#$% is going to happen but i can’t wait for ios 7:D i guess this is just what ios needs

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      same boring grid or boring app icons…lol

      • http://www.facebook.com/Lintex Leo J. Campos

        that’s what i hope they change!… one more year and i can see myself buying plastic crap from samsung

      • ReanimationXP

        >implying they aren’t grids of icons

        i’ll go ahead and preempt your next comment:
        >implying widgets aren’t retarded and worthless

      • http://www.facebook.com/Lintex Leo J. Campos

        I don’t think gadgets are worthlesss, i just think they don’t look good or work well on these android devices, hopefully apple will find the way implement them in a better way or come out with something else, i just think ios look is getting boring they need to find the way to show me all the information i need without making it look ugly

      • ReanimationXP

        Fair enough, but Android is not doing it right by a long shot.

    • http://twitter.com/therealjdizzle Jason Masters

      iOS 6.6.6 drops 12/25 it’s gonna be mind blowing!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Lintex Leo J. Campos

        WTF MAN?? NOW MY MIND IS PRE-BLOWN

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.tilden.9 Jamie Tilden

    Damn, I really like the skeuomorphic design and I think it’s one of the things that’s made Apple distinct from Mircosoft and Samsung. …especially Samsung, who’s minimalistic design I hate. Would reaallly hate to Apple turn towards the ways of Samsung in their UI designs.

  • http://twitter.com/lgasparjnr laszlo gaspar

    Get rid of the grey and bring on the color. Microsoft did this with windows 8 and i must say the wide range of rich colors does make the whole OS more vibrant and interesting.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Childs/1067107105 Matthew Childs

      windows 8 is hideous

      • http://www.facebook.com/corey87 Corey Evans

        I agree, but I respect them for actually trying something different. Rather than just ripping of iOS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CGMarkus Markus Seiler

    I don’t think he will change the main design in the first place. It’s just 6 month or so until the next iOS presentation, maybe that’s too little time to change the whole interface. My guess is that they keep the skeuomorphic look, but give it a certain overall look, so that not every single App has it’s own style. He will bring it all on one level…

  • Pavelbure

    Great, so instead of real world looks, we’re going to go to the other extreme and everything is going to be grey on grey.

    • ReanimationXP

      My fears exactly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Laing/100000029389036 Jeff Laing

    Ask yourself, has the target audience ever used a paper Address Book? A wall Calendar? An actual journal? A pocket calculator?

    Sorry, these days most of things were done by “my previous phone”. The “familiarity” argument is very overrated, especially since the visual metaphor always fails (why can’t I tear across half a page as a bookmark?)

    With respect to being able to discern different apps, history buffs remember Apples early forays into OpenDoc where there were not supposed to be discrete apps, only documents.

    Apple needs to focus on inter-operability of information (on both OSX and iOS), not on making apps look “different” – that’s what will keep them a generation ahead.

  • http://twitter.com/Chindavon Chindavon

    I believe Ive will deliver and give iOS the major facelift it desperately needs. I for one, am very excited for what’s to come with the new changes from Apple. If Ive can make the sexiest laptop, desktop, phone, tablet, etc…I can only imagine what the UI will start to look like moving forward!

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      there was a reason Steve kept him in hard ware design.. he is not a UI designer at all that is not his strength

      • http://twitter.com/Chindavon Chindavon

        How do you really know that?

  • Howard Ellacott

    I think skeumorphism works on small screens, but it looks pretty hideous on a big screen… I’m sure whatever Mr. Ive has for us in iOS 7 or 8 it’ll be a big improvement! :D

  • http://twitter.com/Nicki_Danny Danny

    I would love it if Apple’s iOS next interface look changed. We all got bored of the same old interface, they need to refresh that home screen, along with the apps. Adding features may be very useful, but mainly what an user looks for is design. That’s what catches the eye, even before the features! So iOS with a little touch of new design, would totally rule the mobile operating systems world!

  • raheel

    there is no need to redesign existing design of iOS is the image of apple for what aplle got huge fame

  • Lawrence

    His taste and style in clothing is horrible so I just hope that won’t translate into bland and ugly interfaces.

  • Usama Ahmad

    NO, NO, NO, NO This can’t happen, i Have spoken

  • http://twitter.com/therealjdizzle Jason Masters

    He can make borders of shit and people will say its wonderful and innovative!

  • http://www.facebook.com/beingtimfreeman Tim Freeman

    99% of the comments on this article sound like they came straight from “The Fountainhead”. I feel like Howard Roark listening to clients tell him they want “an English Tudor office building.” Face/Palm. I just call it as a I see it.

  • http://twitter.com/oo7plasma Brandon

    just please, get rid of all the glossy stuff, it looks sooooooo dated.

  • hellome

    as long as he gets rid of the paper shredder in passbook. its so corny

  • Robert Bolduc

    Skeuomorphic design has to die. You just can’t have super cool MacBook Air and faux-leather.

  • Evgeny Boutvilovski

    Ok people, you can’t say something like iOS desperately needs a facelift without offering a single idea.

    Personally, it would be hard to care less about whether my contacts will be in a leather notebook or a glass box. Isn’t this what themes are for?

  • Joseph Kool

    Ive is a dick, a dirty smelly overrated dick