Word got around last week that Scott Forstall, the man responsible for much of the visual design of Apple’s iOS, has parted ways with Apple due to disagreements over Apple Maps. As one of the primary creators the aesthetic of iOS, Forstall’s departure from Apple will likely cause the appearance of iOS to change significantly. Jony Ive will be taking over iOS design duties, in addition to his existing role as the designer of most of Apple’s hardware.
So what does this mean for the future of iOS? Well, the big difference will be a move away from skeuomorphism; that is, the idea of making the OS elements look like real world materials and mechanisms. From the iBooks app’s attempt to look like an actual bookshelf, to the inclusion of a “Corinthian leather” texture in many Apple apps, iOS is filled with examples of skeuomorphism. Forstall was a big fan of this approach, as was the late Steve Jobs himself.
With both of those men now gone from the halls of Apple HQ, and Jony Ive taking over where they left off, many of the skeumorphic elements of iOS will likely disappear. Ive has already expressed his desire to turn both iOS and OS X into cleaner, more minimalist interfaces.
A reader over at Cult of Mac has made a mock-up of what he thinks iOS might look like in the future:
Gone is the phony handwriting of the current iOS memos, and in its place is a cleaner, more utilitarian font that reflects the design imperatives of a Jony Ive-headed iOS design department. Changes like this likely be reflected everywhere in Apple’s software (including that bloody awful Game Center interface, ASAP, please).
The strange thing about a future of clean, crisp Apple interfaces is that Windows Phone 8 and its Metro UI is already kind of cornering that market. The folks at Microsoft have done a great job of delivering an incredibly clean aesthetic with their new mobile OS, and it’s going to be hard for Apple to move into that space without appearing to be stepping on Microsoft’s heels.
At the end of the day, Apple will have to find an aesthetic for iOS that balances the clean vision Ive has for it and the current interface cues that user have become comfortable with. By all means, Apple should dispense with the darker side of their penchant for skeuomorphism as soon as possible – we’re looking at you, iBooks, Game Center, Compass, etc. – and replace those elements with more modern looking designs. On the other hand, who doesn’t like the analog-feeling springiness of the iPhone home page, when you scroll to the edge of it and it bounces back?