Apple’s New iOS 7 Interface Design By Jony Ive — So Much Less And Yet Too Much

Product-Cum-UI-Designer Jony Ive Has Exceeded His Level Of Competency.

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Dull. Boring. Flat. Elementary. Childish. Immature. Kitch.

All at once.

Awful.

Awful.

Welcome to the new iOS 7 design by Jony Ive

At Apple’s annual developer conference in San Francisco on June 11, the company unveiled a revised look for its iOS software, earning a standing ovation — and one “I love you” — from the several thousand developers in attendance. Amazing, because I felt a lump in my throat.

I saw a developer mock-up the day prior and thought, “No way they are doing that, those things are horrid.”

They are doing that.

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The latest version of Apple’s iOS software, the user interface for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, marks a move away from Apple’s trademark detailed and “skeumorphic” design, which relies on digital presentations of real-world objects, and toward a “flat” design aesthetic that’s recently become trendy among tech companies — think bell-bottoms, pet rocks, mood rings…you know, things of lasting value and impression.

OK, so I don’t like Ive’s iOS work. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit with teenage girls…that’s the target market right? Because few adults and no businessperson is going to ever want to pull out their iPhone in public again. Maybe Apple/Jony Ive just breathed a chance of life into the new Blackberry X10.

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Apple design chief Jonathan Ive offered an overview of Apple’s design aesthetic:

“We’ve always thought of design as being more than how something looks. It’s the whole thing. The way something works on so many different levels,” Ive said. “I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity.”

Yes, great design does tend toward simplicity (I’m thinking about my Bang & Olufsen stereo and speakers and my Audi). But pedantic abuse of simplicity in service to banal trendiness merely creates an homage to boring and non-stimulating factors soon to be considered trite and cliche. Great design of simplicity is simply “Classic” and timeless, always stimulating, always in good taste — now and fifty years from now.

My favorite architectural design is modernism. Taken to its extreme though, as its theme became trendiness, removing too much detail led to boring square white or glass boxes devoid of stimulation and not at all stimulating.

Tsai Residence Modern Architecture

The really bad architects/designers of the period toward modernism’s “death” in the mid-to-late 1970’s attempted cleverness through banal adornments to the vapid white box with trendy carbuncle elements and obnoxious color (ala, iOS 7) piquing our ire — think Mies van der Rohe design abused by Liberace decoration. For, it was the birth of Kitsch!

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Liberace Bedroom

And so it is: kitsch with Ive’s iOS 7 user interface for hundreds of millions of people.

Not Design; More Like Styling

So, yes, the hyped focus on Ive’s unveiling was the apparent simplicity of the apps and icons. But for all the supposed simplicity (flatness) and kitsch color, the biggest—and perhaps most elegant—element of the new system is its complex adaptability to external environmental conditions. For example, iOS 7 uses the accelerometer to adapt the screen in “parallax,” achieving “new types of depth,” in the words of Jony Ive. And using the phone’s light meter, it seems that the new icons and background adapt to the lighting to improve readability automatically.

The screen itself is presented as a dense layering of image effects. In an exploded axonometric view, we see a crisp clear background serve as a foundation for a middle layer—the apps—topped off with an elegant blurred panel that serves as a background for the control center. We can glean something about the future of iOS in the use of layers.

parallax layers

Rather than treating the home screen and apps as separate, iOS 7 uses layering to provide context, instead. As one moves the phone, the layers change in relation to each other to provide the image of depth and movement. But, do we really use our phones that way? Do we really swivel our phones around when trying to pick and launch an app? Nah…not really. Nice trick though…still not design, more like styling.

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The “Parallax planes” idea looks cool. The redesign does not. It’s horrible.

The old third-party icons look like a professional designer created them. The new Apple icons look like a grade schooler created them.

A Reversed Calm Before The Storm: iOS7’s Dull After The Kitsch

And while I get that all the “hip people” hated the skeumorphic stuff (something about not the current “in-thing”), is a plain white background really such a great improvement over linen? The thing looks like a snowstorm, especially on the white iPhone models. I think the existing version of Messages, to pick just one example, looks much better than the redesign we saw here.

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It’s this way throughout. Once past the kitsch home screen, it’s nothing but dullsville, man.

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os6 and os7-compass

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Apple used to have UI designs that nobody could match. Now they’re not only the same as everybody else, they’re following instead of leading.

Introducing The Apple Android-Cum-WindowsPhone

ios7 flat uiJony Ive should have stuck with industrial product design, not ventured into graphic design for operating system user interfaces. IOS redesign has rendered an Apple version of WinDoze Phone or maybe even that alien Android.

As one commenter posted online, “If you put a holo3d launcher on an android 4.1 phone you basically had IOS7 (but with widgets).”

Another posted, “Looks way too much like Windows 8. Why would Apple want to get away from the rich, deep looking appearance that iOS currently enjoys, and go to such a flat, cheap look? That is one of the reasons I chose an Apple iPhone is because the UI is so rich looking. If wanted a UI that looks like kids drew it with a crayon, I would have gone with a Windows 8 phone.”

Windows-Phone-8

googlenowlead

There are certainly visual similarities with Android, and the solutions are similar to WindowsPhone. Given the usage stats and customer loyalty that Tim Cook quoted in his introduction, the problems and solutions of iOS are supposed to be unique. Rather than overhaul the system, they’re attempting to introduce what amounts to a new kind of visual “slang” — if the original iOS was built for a 45-year-old newbie, iOS 7 looks like it was designed for a “tween.” It’s more grown-up in terms of functionality, but younger in terms of form — one, namely me, might say childish.

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In fact, I posted my status to Facebook: “Update to Apple’s new iOS7? Make your iPhone and iPad look like 5 year old’s kid toys!”

I’m sure I don’t like the new iOS look but as with almost all Apple products the proof will be in holding the device and using it. That’s where they shine, and maybe that’s when I will be persuaded.

Oh, One More Thing

One more rant: AS FOR ITUNES RADIO… You have to listen to ads…unless you pay $25 per year for iTunes Match. That’s well and good, but when Apple precludes members like me with more than 25,000 songs from joining Match, then we music aficionados are relegated to a second class experience of ad-interrupted streaming music. Or not…because I will continue to support ad-free Pandora through my purchased subscription where I am not forced to suffer ads because I also happen to own a lot of personal music.

And yet, this is also part of the problem: there was no “One More Thing.”

Where’s my new watch and my new television?

And my new, “I didn’t even know I need that” thing?


10 responses to “Apple’s New iOS 7 Interface Design By Jony Ive — So Much Less And Yet Too Much

  • KairosM

    Just could not leave what was well alone. Had to fuck with it for no discernible reason. arggggg !!! I be pissed.

  • Right Wing NH

    Please send complaints to apple.com/feedback and tell them dumping skeuomorphism means they have lost the Apple quality that made them so easy on our eyes.

    And while you are at it, you can harass @tim_cook @sirjonyive and @apple_worldwide on Twitter to tell them what a disaster this is… people are leaving Apple for Android.. why pay more when you can have cheap looking Honey Boo Boo phone for less?

  • Carla Elchesen

    I agree… The new icons and apps that go with them look like a grade schooler designed them! The icons are flat, 2-dimensional with the color/pixel range of a 16-color Crayola box of crayons! And don’t even get me started on the apps: Where has the color gone? Where has the 3-dimensional light & dark shading gone? Perhaps Jony Ive is color-blind? That would be the only acceptable explanation for taking perfectly good icons & apps and making them look like they’re running in Windows Me!

  • WG

    Unfortunately the redesign goes beyond Apple’s insistence that “ugly is the new beautiful” – iOS7 is in many ways harder to see, and harder to use. More than any (admittedly subjective) opinions about beauty, the much-more objective observations about usability are the yard-stick by which iOS7 should be judged and found lacking…

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Agreed, the more major impactful issue is in usability, and here iOS7 is woefully lacking. Last evening as I was observing two different iPhones on which I utilize the Remote App (one is iOS7 and one iOS6), I was noting how space is utilized so poorly on the update compared to the old design, with too much empty space and images and text reduced below optimal levels available physically. I thought to myself about other graphical layout aspects of the update and thought that it’s almost as if all that was learned about good graphical space utilization and usability and readability were thrown out the window. As if we are back at step one of modern graphical interfacing. Sad. Jony Ive has exceeded his competency.

  • Justin

    I will not lie, I hadn’t updated my IOS for a little while since I preferred the current look. Eventually there was an app that I needed to use to obtain a source, which required IOS 7. Once it had finished updating, call me sensitive or something, I felt like I was going to throw up. That is how hideous I think the new graphics are. I just hope they realize there mistake within a few versions. In the mean time I am trying to use outside sources to change it back.

    • Gadsden Gurl

      I refuse to buy another iPad or iPhone until they make things look normal again. Our eyes did not evolve by looking at flat colorless objects. I can barely see the icons on the calendar, which is horrid. We are the ones that have the money and they are not getting another cent until they give us our apple back.

  • Armin

    Good article, my views are similar..

    Beaufiful, slick, great – but – alas – all the same. Why is Apple design so extremely, extremely, extremely similar. Is this design fascism or excellence?

    Read this good article about the – me too – Apple design of all ages:

    What is wrong with Apple design
    http://apple-critic.com/2015/05/21/what-is-wrong-with-apple-design/

    • Gadsden Gurl

      I am wealthy enough to buy any Mac I want, but I will no longer buy them if I can’t SEE the interface. the iPad is RUINED with iOS8 and practically useless — so hard to use.. WHY???? Why did they do this?

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