This post isn’t meant to be a guide or a essay, it’s really just an admission of guilt about my incorrect love for a worrisome UI paradigm. I’m writing this because I believe design and connections (with people OR systems) are the most important things in life
I was recently very excited to install an app called Weather Dial, an app for the iPhone that provides an overview of the weather in a design based off the design principles of Dieter Rams. It’s meant to look like a Braun product but it’s trapped inside a phone and I’m really over it.
I was originally attracted to it because of my interest in Rams’ work but I’m really feeling let down by the application because of the box it locks itself into and limitations it reaches because of this.
This app has a huge dial that indicates the type of weather currently, it even animates like a mechanical wheel. But, I can’t play with itself despite my mobile having this touchscreen so I’m left with a view into a world containing a product I can’t really touch (it even feels like a magical world because it’s told iOS to get rid of my status bar so who knows what the time is in this new magical world). I love design because it’s usually connected with its environment, a beautiful Braun watch face is linked to a nice band and it feels great but I’m left with a app that ends with the size of the screen — but I can’t turn over my phone and feel the back of this weather machine.
I feel like this design is probably more about being cool or showing off appreciation for elegance, when design (for me) is about helping people get stuff done in life. Machines are meant to be out of the way.
I truly appreciate the core reason of skeuomorphic design, trying to build interfaces that people can relate to and be able to use without any hesitation. But it locks your application into a very tight box that you can’t get out of, it leaves no room for growth because the physical product has already been decided in its functionality and going beyond that would be a departure from the product itself.
We should limit skeuomorphic design to the concept of building things that people can relate to, but don’t base a look or feel off it. Why is a notepad and paper so successful? It’s because it marries a easy to use input device with a responsive way of storing information. So let’s build off this in an application, build an easy to way to input data easily with a powerful way to store information. Dump those truly terrible cursive fonts (hey, Notes in iOS thank you for introducing Helvetica as a input font).
I’m interested in design teaching people how to use modern day devices without having to rely on a manual or previous experiences because not everyone has those previous experiences.
We need to keep pushing computers forward. We’ve done this in the hardware world by dumping floppy disks, DVDs but keeping software in touch with the past is going to leave a dull future.