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Mac OS icon designer Kare: iOS 7 icons 'generally a good direction'

updated 08:30 pm EDT, Wed June 12, 2013

Evidence that WWDC presentation was 'work in progress' on icons

While much has been said on the reaction by iOS users on the new look that will be found throughout the updated iOS 7 when it is released later this year, one element that doesn't get enough attention is that the icons and designs shown at WWDC are not, according to unnamed sources familiar with the ongoing project, set in stone. However, the redesign has already won a vote of approval from legendary original Mac OS icon designer Susan Kare, who told Network World that the new icons are "generally a good direction."

She added that she is "a fan of simple, meaningful symbols that fill a space, such as Music and Weather." She called the general design "better -- more iconic, less illustrative" and generally approved of the redesign. The new icons are flatter and more simply designed in most cases, but rely on different techniques to give them more depth.

Gone are fake drop shadows, but in their place is a "parallax" view that shifts the background wallpaper in sync with the motion of the phone, or displays a panorama when the phone is swiveled. Users also have the option of one or two "animated" backgrounds, and the OS makes much greater use of translucency.

While users have already chimed in with their opinions on the art direction of the both the icons and Apple's iOS programs, which have generally been stripped of any "skeuomorphism" elements and given a bigger, thinner and simplified look that utilizes lots of white space, one thing remains true: looking at iOS 7's overall design and apps makes one feel as if they are holding an entirely new iPhone in their hands, such is the overall effect of the various changes.

Sources have told TheNextWeb that observers should consider the designs they are seeing now as a "mid-stride" snapshot of progress on the system-wide design overhaul rather than the finished product, and that some elements may change, become more thematic, or otherwise be altered before the final release. The comments remind long-time Mac users of the various iterations given to OS X's "Aqua" look during the first few years of the OS, where the original striped elements and other portions of the design were gradually toned down and refined with each new release. It is likely that some of what was demonstrated on stage at WWDC will be similarly tweaked.

This would explain some noticeable differences between the way some icons looked on stage and how they have been presented in the developer beta. For example, the Mail icon's color gradient (from dark blue to light blue) is reversed from the way it was shown on stage. According to the report, a general framework of color palettes and overall feel has been established, but individual icons and app looks were designed by different members of Ive's staff and may not be fully consistent with the still-evolving thematic guidelines.

Feedback from developers will, no doubt, include commentary on the design elements as well as on functionality and bugs. As with any startling change, there will be those who don't care for it, just as there were of the original iOS design -- which saw a lot of refinement but little in the way of dramatic change over the first five years of its life. As with what the company is doing with OS X Mavericks, the feeling one gets from the redesign is that Apple is positioning iOS to be ready for the next decade -- and that both Apple and its users are just at the start of another strange, wild ride ahead of them.





by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. cashxx

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-13-09

    It takes a day or so to get used too. I hated iOS 7 in the beginning but after a day or so now I am starting to like it more. I hate change so that may be why! I guess others don't like change as well!!.....lol

  1. jmonty12

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-02-03

    I'm really wondering why Apple made the icons rounder. They're only a little rounder, but it means that many application vendors will have to redesign their icons in order to make them look right again. Why Apple????

  1. Marook

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 05-05-99

    It's boring, dull, WAY too much hue on most icons, and all the 'text' navigation really such BIG time.
    The effect here, is that i DON'T want to use my iPhone like I did before! So bye-bye JDpowers award for the 10. year in a row!

  1. airmanchairman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-08-11

    Don't really care for the Music, Safari, PassBook, or Newsstand icons, prefer the iOS6 ones, but the rest I can live with. All trivial quibbles, as the main focus of my attention in usage is within the apps that I use.

    Pastel textures are nice, but the general colour gamut is rather garish, and could do with toning down with "whisper" colours as seen in tasteful ceramic tiles (whisper-violets and greens as opposed to deep blues and greens, and whisper-pinks as opposed to those garish reds, and pale yellows to soften the overall spectrum).

    Functionality-wise, I'm 100% on board: there is so much more than has been highlighted by the demos, (inter-app audio for instance) and I love what has been shown so far - full-on multitasking with intelligent background analysis of app usage to refine it on a per-user basis. Siri is progressing apace, and combined with the new Control Centre gesture gives a welcome addition of quick-toggle Settings options.

    Can't wait to consign the new gestures to muscle memory. Where's Spotlight been relocated to, by the way?

  1. fullenglish

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-17-11

    What was wrong with the old look? The new look and colours make it look like it was designed for kiddies. With other manufacturers copying the physical look of the iPhone, this redesign of the icons will make the iPhone even less distinguishable from other phones. Change for changes sake is what designers do, unfortunately.

  1. ux-designer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-13-13

    I suspect Susan Kare is only saying this is "generally a good direction" to avoid a Woz style headline where a famous Apple founding member bad mouths the company.

    This is NOT generally a good direction.

    Ive wants the digital interface to be "authentic" which means no skeumorphic elements, but clearly he doesn't know how to properly manage this objective.

    The camera icon has gone from something semi-abstract that focused on the lens, to something that is a representation of a real-world device (which, ironically, is being killed off by smart phones and may become as irrelevant a metaphor as the old disk icon for "save"). This is a look back, not a look forward. This is the only icon in the group that is embossed, which is at odds with the "authentic" digital flat aesthetic the new OS is striving for.

    Conversely "photos" has gone more abstract with something that approximates the previous metaphor -- a flower -- without being an actual picture of a flower. This appears to be the best attempt at what the new design is striving for.

    Settings is the only icon with depth, making it unclear what (if any) the guidelines are for the new "flat" aesthetic. This is a very skeumorphic representation. The icon has been changed to a gear that more closely resembles the insides of a watch, which doesn't improve on the metaphor at all.

    Maps is a convoluted picture of roads and a path on a road. The metaphor is overly complex and unimaginative.

    Notes appears to be very skeumorphic, looking like an actual notepad with the depth added to show the binding at the top. Totally out of sync with the overall objective.

    Newsstand is a total mess with complex tiny elements that have no contrast and become muddy when layered on top of each other. It is also an overly literal, overly complex, and unimaginative metaphor. Easily the worst icon of the bunch.

    Game Center uses abstract bubbles which have no relatable relationship to gaming. Terrible metaphor. And it has confusingly been given skeumorphic reflectivity and dimensionality. What is the new aesthetic direction? Totally unclear.

    Reminders emphasizes the color coded dots, which are meaningless as a metaphor, rather than the more obvious checkmark which is synonymous with checklists and to-dos.

    Passbook takes a more skeumorphic approach with dimensional representations of a ticket stub and a receipt. The cropping looks nice, but the approach is out of sync with the overall objective to be more abstract and less literal. The tiny badges (airplane, coffee cup, etc) are too small making them hard to read and complicate what could be a nice icon.

    Contacts (not shown) is very skeumorphic, looking like an old-school address book which NOBODY under the age of 60 has used in the last 15 years.

    iTunes Store & Music are nearly identical with only a circle to differentiate them. They were already confusingly similar and have strangely been made even MORE similar in iOS7.

    It's so bad, I just can't believe it. Ive needs better collaborators and advisors to help him make the transition from industrial designer to visual designer.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by airmanchairmanView Post

    Where's Spotlight been relocated to, by the way?



    Every home screen can be pulled down to reveal the search bar.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    ux-designer: while I may not agree with every single one of your comments (and invite you to note that the article actually SAYS the designs are still in flux), I think you've offered a well-thought-out critique rather than a knee-jerk reaction and I'm sure that Apple would be interested in the comments, you should send them along. I'm completely serious btw, I think that *specific* and *constructive* notes (like what you said about Music and iTunes (Store) being too similar) is just the sort of stuff they are looking for.

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