Product-Cum-UI-Designer Jony Ive Has Exceeded His Level Of Competency.
Dull. Boring. Flat. Elementary. Childish. Immature. Kitch.
All at once.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It’s this way throughout. Once past the kitsch home screen, it’s nothing but dullsville, man.
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
Jony 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.”
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.
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?