Skeuomorphism Is The Red-Headed Step Child At This Year’s WWDC

Apple’s keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developers conference this morning had a few moments of humor — and several of them came at the expense of skeuomorphism, the design philosophy that seemed to govern many of the earlier versions of iOS.

The move away from skeuomorphism has been exhaustively chronicled and debated in the tech press. When iOS exec Scott Forstall left Apple last year, his fondness for skeuomorphic design (i.e., design that’s based on physical objects and rela-world textures) was reported to be one of the factors for his departure, and pundits suggested that without Forstall, we’d see a move away from skeuomorphism in iOS. And indeed, recent leaks about iOS 7 suggested the design would lose its skeumorphic elements.

So most of the design changes to iOS 7 announced today weren’t too surprising. What was surprising, or at least amusing, was the extent to which Apple executives, most notably Craig Federighi, were willing to take onstage digs at past skeuomorphic design elements. There weren’t a ton of insults, nor did they feel particularly pointed or mean — they still seemed like a significant gesture.

For example, when demonstrating the new calendar, Federighi said, “Absolutely no cows were harmed in the making of this calendar,” referring to the old version’s leather-inspired icon and design. He later brought the calendar back up and said, “Look! Even without all that stitching, everything just stays in place.” Similarly, when he demonstrated the new iOS Game Center, he joked, “We ran out of green felt” and said that the new design was more environmentally friendly since the visual design didn’t incorporate any felt or wood.

If this means we can expect to see fewer blog posts using the word “skeumorphism,” I’ll be glad. Not only is it a nightmare to spell, it’s also guaranteed to make any post 100 percent more wonky.

WWDC 13 Coverage