Arguments for & against Skeuomorphism in Design

In Archive by Fredy Ore

With the redesign of iOS7, the debate over Affordances and Skeumorphism gets debated once again.


It’s like a pendulum swinging from obvious visual affordances to engaging kinetic ones. The parallax effect, the physics of the messages bubbles and I’m sure many other ‘kinetic’ behaviors are new to devs in iOS7. Apple wants apps to use more motion and less visual design.

Quote from John Gruber @

Update: Another useful article on the discussion by Dan Wineman from Venomous Porridge

Below are some quotes from Wikipedia.

Arguments for skeuomorphism in digital design

The arguments in favor of skeuomorphic design are that it makes it easier for those familiar with the original device to use the digital emulation and that it is visually appealing. Interactions with computer devices are purely cultural and learned, so once a process is learned in society, it is difficult to remove. Norman describes this process as a form of cultural heritage.[6]

In some cases, such as the pilot interface of digital avionics, familiarity to veteran pilots could even be (potentially) a safety issue.

Arguments against skeuomorphism in digital design

The arguments against skeuomorphic design are that skeuomorphic interface elements use metaphors that are more difficult to operate and take up more screen space than standard interface elements, that this breaks operating system interface design standards, that it causes an inconsistent look and feel between applications,[13] that skeuomorphic interface elements rarely incorporate numeric input or feedback for accurately setting a value, that many users may have no experience with the original device being emulated, and that skeuomorphic design limits creativity by grounding the experience to physical counterparts.[14]

Apple Inc., while under the direction of Steve Jobs, was known for its wide usage of skeuomorphic designs in various applications. The debate over the merits of Apple’s extensive use of skeuomorphism became the subject of substantial media attention in October 2012, a year after Jobs’ death, largely as the result of the reported resignation of Scott Forstall, described as “the most vocal and high-ranking proponent of the visual design style favored by Mr. Jobs”. Apple designer Jonathan Ive, who took over some of Forstall’s responsibilities and had “made his distaste for the visual ornamentation in Apple’s mobile software known within the company”, was expected to move the company toward a less skeuomorphic aesthetic.[15] With the announcement of iOS 7 at WWDC, Apple officially shifted from skeuomorphism to a more simplified design, thus beginning the so-called “death of skeuomorphism.”[16]

Additional links:
Sacha Greif’s essay on skeuomorphism vs flat design