Last Monday, techlovers worldwide were waiting with baited breath for the unveiling of iOS 7, probably the most highly anticipated iteration of Apple’s celebrated mobile OS since conception for the reason that it has been developed under the creative leadership of Jony Ive in the post-Jobs Apple era, an era that is decidedly marked by the deceleration of Apple’s previous surge of market domination in the face of more customers than ever choosing to adopt Android devices on which to fervently tap away.
One of the most highly anticipated events of the year in the Technology community
There has been an incredible pressure on the team to create an OS that would not only adopt features that have become standardised across Android systems, features that in lacking mark the iPhone as an increasingly limited device, but also bring something new to the table, a flair for design that is definitively Apple – that aesthetic and experience that screams quality and conspicuous but careful attention to detail in design that every customer experiences when holding an Apple device in their hands for the first time.
A gorgeous iOS 7 concept from Simply Zesty’s Art Director, Philip Joyce
In the build up to this year’s WWDC the internet has been awash with concepts for the new OS, designers from all over eager to present their take on how the flat design trend would or could be applied to the skeuomorphic design that Apple users have come to be familiar with.
If bets had been placed, I’m not sure there would have been any winners.
“Skeuomorphic-design haters rejoice. iOS 7 does away with the much-maligned design trend that attempts to make apps appear like their real-life counterparts” [source]
The push towards adopting flat design in unsurprising when you take into account the force with which the trend is affecting web and app design; simpler, sharper shapes and limited colour palettes look incredibly stylish and current when compared to the skeuomorphism users have come to associate with Apple’s former aesthetic. Furthermore, it is widely believed that as smartphones, tablets and computers have become integrated into our daily and social lives further still, the familiarity of using these devices allows developers to now be released from many of the constraints previously placed upon them; a button does not need to so closely resemble one for a user to understand that it functions so, as these concepts are well established and users well seasoned, ready for more abstract and beautiful UI experiences.
Functionality has been improved by bringing control over your settings closer to your home screen and better multitasking
Granted, Apple was never going to risk alienating its whole fanbase by creating an interface so abstract that it would render some users incapable of quickly getting to grips with it, but the neon colour palette and gradient-heavy icons revealed to us at WWDC 2013 were certainly unexpected after months of gorging ourselves on the best and most beautiful flat design on the web, daydreaming at our desks about what those expert lvl. designers over in sunny California would come up with when they put their heads together this time.
First and foremost, there is a lot about the OS’s design that, strictly speaking, is not ‘flat’, but simply ‘flatter’, such as the use of gradients throughout. The decision to stray from fully adopting a flat design aesthetic is not wholly surprising as many insightful commentators were quick to dismiss the reports of a radical design overhaul as hasty, insisting that Apple would make smaller steps away from skeuomorphism rather than to abandon the established aesthetic altogether.
A side-by-side look at the iOS 6 & iOS 7 icons [source]
Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the design is the inconsistency between app icons, from each other and from the original goal of simplification; they vary wildly from app to app, some icons now rendered less readable by being made somewhat more complex than their predecessors, such as the Newsstand and Camera apps, and many featuring a rather bland, gray colour scheme. Granted, the gray colours used may be complimentary to the rest of the colour scheme overall when regarding the neon tones used elsewhere, and until each and every one of us have held our iOS 7 official-release enhanced devices in our hands, and experienced those translucency & depth effects in all their glory, critiques of the design are somewhat redundant.
Apple shows its meticulous design approach is underpinned by across-the-board consistency
One of the most exciting aspects of a major design overhaul such as this has to be the range of responses from the design community, particularly the endeavours of bright Creatives who earnestly take to these ‘reboots’, inspired from places of adoration, or contempt for the Cali technology giant, or perhaps simply driven to showcase their own talents using a popular subject matter. Granted, it is surely easier to redesign something that already exists, but the existence of a foundation for their designs demands a higher level of quality overall, and their projects are still subjects to the harshest of critiques – peer review.
Dribbble, the invitation-only home of the best in the business, has more than a few worthy offerings.
Ondrej Jób‘s icons utilise the official colour palette to great effect whilst striving to attain more consistency between the icons, and retain similarities with some previous iOS icons, such as for the Camera app.
Bushra Mahmood uses her on-trend visual aesthetic to create low poly renderings of the icons to great success.
Rovane Durso brings high calibre flat design to the icons – the results are simply stunning.
Leo Drapeau‘s Dribbble shots of his iOS 7 icon tweaks have now reached 130,000+ views on the site.
What consumers and developers will experience with the official release of iOS 7 cannot be fully predicted, but it is safe to say that the achievements of the Apple team will invariably have an in influence on the coming trends in design; whether this influence will increase the staying power of flat design, push it towards a new direction, or speed up the cycle of change that will propel designers to defy the trend, a trend that rose in opposition to the skeuomorphism that has populated design and vector tutorial websites in the years since the iPhone first sparked consumer-hysteria, has yet to be seen.
Credit to ConnectCT for featured image.