IOS 7: The Color and the Shape

This is the screenshot of Apple’s new iOS 7. When I first looked at it on my iPhone I was rather shocked. So bright, so simple, so colorful… so very, very colorful. I proceeded to show it to my wife, who didn’t believe me at first that it was the new iPhone interface, and then proceeded to say it looked like “a kids version of the iPhone.” I’ve heard similar reactions on Twitter and from friends that it’s so colorful and simple that it looks childlike and clownish. I tended to agree and found myself despairing that Jony Ive had gone overboard here and maybe ruined the iOS interface completely.

Yet, after rewatching the iOS 7 video and thinking about it more, I realized that there is more going on than merely an overly colorful redesign. The interface in iOS has been redesigned not just in the icons, but the underlying structure. It’s more consistent and user friendly, which is more the real design of the OS than simply its colorful sheen. Steve Jobs famously said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” 

I think Ive had that quote in the back of his mind the entire time he was designing iOS 7. He wanted the entire system to fit together, to be consistent, to just work. While he then added some overly colorful flourishes, that is not the main body of the design. The design is the structures of the entire system – the new way of using Calendar and Safari, the redone control and notification centers, the small user interface touches that bring things together into a coherent whole.

Jony Ive famously designed the original “Bondi Blue” iMac back in 1998. Looking at it now, its also looks rather garish and colorful. However, what made the iMac revolutionary wasn’t merely its color – it was its simplicity. It eschewed the floppy drive, got rid of almost all ports, and combined everything in a simple and elegant package. It was the overall form of the iMac that made its design, not simply its color. Soon Apple got tired of the bright, garish colors and switched to neutral grays, blacks, and whites for future computers. Yet, they kept the inherent simplicity in design that the iMac created and made it part of their DNA.

I hope this redesigned iOS is the same starting point for Ive on the software side, as the iMac was for him on the hardware side. While the bright colors are simply a phase and will hopefully be made more distinguished over time, I believe the underlying shape and structure will remain the same, and provide a strong backbone to the future of iOS design.

I hate the color, but I love the shape.


One thought on “IOS 7: The Color and the Shape

  1. You’re right. The colors are garish and clown-like in a Stephen King sort of way with way too much white. I hate the look of just about everything, particularly the white text for text messaging. Compass, however, is beautiful. I can’t speak to the functionality as yet, but it’s too bad Steve isn’t still alive; this GUI design atrocity never would have made it past the delusional aspiration stage.

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