Skeuomorphic is a word that has being thrown around online a lot since Scott Forstall left Apple, and it refers to operating system graphics that are designed to look like real-world objects. Apple's use of skeuomorphic design in iOS is flawed, outdated and needs to be removed.


In the past, skeuomorphic design has meant car wheels with fake knock-off hub cabs and plastic flooring that looks like wood, but with smartphone, tablet and computer operating systems it has come to mean applications like the contacts book and calendar that are designed to look like their real-world counterparts.

Steve Jobs was a big fan of skeuomorphic design, and so was Scott Forstall, the recently-ousted senior vice president of iOS software at Apple, which led to iPhones and iPads full of notepads with 'torn' pages, Passbook tickets that are virtually shredded and the simply terrible Game Center, with its billiards table cloth.

At first you think, 'oh cool, the notepad app looks like a notepad', but the moment someone points out to you that it's actually a bit naff, you agree and from then on it's a tale of hate and frustration towards an otherwise excellent operating system.

It's not that these elements are designed badly - that leather notepad really does look like leather - it's choosing to use such designs that is wrong. These are supposed to be slices of aluminium at the very cutting edge of cool, so why do we have to jot down notes in a pad that would look better on a Victorian writing table?

The iPhone and iPad gave application developers and interface designers a fresh start, a chance to show off on an entirely blank canvas, so why did Apple resort to copying things that already exist?

A lack of ambition, perhaps, or choosing to play it safe and give buyers of these brave new products something familiar, something that they already use and understand.

It's time to move on and get creative again

With Scott Forstall leaving Apple at the end of this year, the task of developing the look and feel of iOS falls into the capable hands of Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design who has played a key role in the design of every iDevice over the past decade.

Since Forstall's shock exit from Apple, it has been revealed that he did not see eye-to-eye with some Apple staff, and with Ive in particular, who apparently refused to sit in the same meetings as him.

Now Forstall is out and the control of what iOS looks like has been given to Ive, we can expect iOS 7 and beyond to feature some major changes to the user interface, not least the removal of skeuomorphic design elements.

Skeuomorphic may have helped to ease users into iOS when it first arrived back in 2007, but now is the time for Apple to rethink the mobile operating system and ditch the notepad, contacts, calendar and Game Center.

Not get rid of the applications, obviously, but consign the leather effect and torn pages to the scrap heap, and focus on redesigning the apps to be more functional and to include none of the useless decorations they have at the moment.

Of course, these changes would have to be made across the board, so skeuomorphic elements would be removed from Mac OS X as well, since the two operating systems are now so closely intertwined, and we're sure Apple will do this.

As for what will replace the skeuomorphic images, that's up to Ive. Seeing the minimalist, industrial design he has given Apple's hardware, we can expect much of the same in future software, too.