There’s been a lot of bashing on so called skeumorphism in UI design lately, and particularly on why Apple is going down this road, especially since their hardware could be seen as the anti-thesis of this design inclination. While there have been posts written in Apple’s defense, what surprises me is that no one has realized that these two design philosophies for hardware and software align perfectly.
Apple’s hardware is designed the way it is for a lot of reasons, but mostly, as Ive has continually said, to be as unintrusive as possible. It’s designed to get out of the way completely and make way for the software. When an app is launched, the device effectively becomes the app. That’s why iOS devices are built only with clean self-effacing straight lines, that’s why there’s a war on hardware buttons, that’s why they don’t come in other colors than black and white. As Gruber has pointed out, Apple has built it’s iOS devices to be the perfect app consoles. Apple has created this perfect blank app canvas so the apps themselves can stand out and make impact. The clean hardware design creates extra leg-room for creative expressive design, not the other way around. And Apple is using that extra leg-room to its full extent. I see this as a perfectly coherent strategy.
Do I like this strategy? Well, that’s another question which I think many others have already elaborated on plenty.