Before the facelift of iOS 7, Apple took a lot of flack—much of it from us—for its cheesy use of skeuomorphism, or the ways it would imitate real world textures, like the wood grain shelving in iBooks or the green felt tables in Game Center.
A new video called Skew, by a group of Kingston University animation students, reimagines Apple interfaces as if they were a physical puppet show of sorts. Using enlarged models built from medium-density fiberboard, card stock, and paper, the designers recreate an Apple app like Newsstand with real pages turning. A small-scaled village with two red dots mimics the mapping interface. And as interface elements fly in and out, they are actual boards and papers being manipulated by hand.
The goal? To “turn skeuomorphism on its head,” according to participant Doug Hindson. What they've created here is a cognitive dissonance by mirroring iOS through its real-world cues. Hindson himself views skeuomorphism as a design fad (but concedes that there is “a whole lot of charm” to those now-dated designs).
Indeed, that skeuomorphic charm grows exponentially when you see iOS reconstructed in 3-D materials. I personally love, not just the authentic textures, but the imprecision of the interface animations. Icons and screens move with imperfect, but completely real inertia, unlike interfaces of today which are prized above all else for being “fast” or “fluid.”
In fact, I can’t help but wonder if some of Skew’s whimsy could make its way back into user interfaces. (Hindson is skeptical.)
But truth is, while we may have grown tired of skeuomorphic textures, skeuomorphic physics—say, icons that bounce like real-world objects might—are alive and well.
To mix these simulated physics with an element of imperfection, a sort of buffer of real-world imprecision within UI animations, could help accomplish what digital skeuomorphism was originally intended to do: Make virtual interfaces feel more real and thereby more approachable.