In recent weeks, many media outlets have claimed that the iOS user interface will see a drastic overhaul. Though I agree there will be changes since Jony Ive took over software design after Forstall's departure, I do not believe it will be as drastic as is being claimed.
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This whole iOS ‘Flat Design’ thing is being blown out of proportion


Over the last few weeks, much has been said about Jony Ive, Apple’s head of design, taking over iOS 7 after Scott Forstall was kicked out of the company late last year. Many people are speculating and claiming that a new “flatter” look will be introduced to iOS, which is admittedly starting to show it’s aesthetic age. However, some mockups have gone really flat. Flat, flat, flat. I don’t think this will be the case. Here’s why.

When someone picks up an iOS device, they expect it to look and feel a certain way. Why? A half decade of usage and familiarity. The very same reason that there really hasn’t been a drastic overhaul to the windowing file system on desktop computers. You have files, folders, and a desktop to play in. If you do mess with this UI scheme, as Microsoft did when they introduced Windows 8, you get lackluster response. Don’t expect iOS to see a drastic new way of interaction. I’m dismissive of the concept video that has been making the rounds. Too much is new, and the sharp edges aren’t Apple-like. More on that in a minute.

As for the term “flat”, how flat are we talking? No shadows at all? I don’t think so. Currently the shadows are deep and visually involved throughout the system. I think those will be toned down but not removed. Skeuomorphism, I’m looking at you Game Center, will be toned down if not removed entirely. This does not mean playfulness or whiny, hallmarks of the Apple experience, will be removed. No, as John Gruber noted in one of the latest episodes of The Talk Show, look at Apple’s homepage and take a look at the third-party apps that are running on their devices. I think this is a better representation of where things are going in regard to software aesthetics at Apple than anything else we’ve seen. Loren Brichter’s Letterpress is a prime example. Simple, clean, but there is depth, and a playful way of interacting with the game. Expect changes like this to be made.

WWDC 2013

Gradients, I would suspect, will still remain. Some people hate them, but to me, it gives a little bit of depth for the eye to wonder around on. Properly handled this can be pleasing to the eye, without being interruptive or garish. I would not expect the rounded corners to go away. Apple owns that shape. It is, after all, printed on million upon millions of iOS home buttons in use right now.

I’m normally not one to read anything into Apple’s announcements. Some people get out a magnifying glass and look for clues, and read into the images what they want to believe is coming. However, this year’s announcement, struck me as a first taste of where the company’s software aesthetic is headed. Depth, rich color, and playfulness, but no fake textures or deep shadows. It also reemphasized the same app shape we all recognize.

If you wanted a single image to epitomize where I think the company is headed in this regard, take a look at this new iTunes email. Clean, light, crisp, but still with texture and character.

Flat Design

In all, I would expect Jony Ive’s taste to deeply influence the new batch of software that will undoubtedly be shown off at this year’s WWDC. Don’t expect it to be devoid of whimsy, and certainly do not expect it to be flat sterile, and something radically different. Just a more refined, toned down look, much like the company’s hardware offerings.


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