About Skeuomorphism

Did you ever wonder why the delete file on your computer looks like an old-fashioned wire trash can that you haven’t seen in years, or why your email icon looks like a letter?  The answer has to do with skeuomorphism.

Skeuomorphism — in addition to being a great Scrabble word — has to do with the concept of patterning computer images after “everyday” objects.  It was a focus of Steve Jobs, who thought it would make computers more accessible and user-friendly to people who don’t wear pocket protectors and button their short-sleeved shirts up to the neck.  Rather than typing a line of code, you could just drag something you wanted to delete to that trash can on the screen.  The use of skeuomorphic objects made computers easier, and almost intuitive, to use, even for skittish people who formerly worried that one false keystroke could cause a hard drive crash.

But those skeuomorphic objects have grown more and more . . . anachronistic in our fast-moving modern world, and an increasingly tech-savvy populace started to make fun of them.  Who uses actual file folders, anyway?  Will kids even know what those objects are supposed to represent?  Why should your e-books be displayed on a cheap-looking wooden bookshelf?  Who wants ’70s-era, bulky looking headphones on the “desktop” of their sleek, super-thin, ultra-light laptop?  And we all know that, in the modern world, something that becomes the object of ridicule isn’t likely to last long.

So apparently skeuomorphism is out, at Apple and elsewhere.  The tech designers are confident that people are comfortable enough with computers that they don’t need to clutter computer screens with representations of outdated objects.  I’m not quite sure what will replace it, but that wire wastebasket is going to be tossed in the trash bin.