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.