With the release of every new product, we brace ourselves for what we hope will be the next big idea, something new and completely innovative. There has been lots of discussion, both on the web and here at TWG, about Apple’s deep redesign of its 6 year old mobile OS. We sat down with our designers, Shiera, Chris and Mustefa, to get their take on iOS 7, the launch strategy and what it means for Apple. Readers, what are your thoughts on the redesign? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Christopher Mudiappahpillai: My position is that it’s still early days. In beta, it’s too early to say anything about anything, although my first impression is that it actually looks really nice. Even if Apple has jumped on the bandwagon of flat design… the flatbed, if you like.
It seems like Apple’s design team was given a mandate: You are no longer bound by the constraints placed on you by Steve Jobs. We want you to take the same principles you’ve been applying to hardware design and apply them to software. iOS 7 is what the beginning of that feels like. When we jumped from OS 9 to OS 10 people hated it too, but over the last dozen or so years, it got consistently better and is now the best operating system in the world – there’s nothing better.
It’s really complicated what they’re doing… just give them some time.
Mustefa Jo’shen: This release isn’t a cohesive release. It’s more apologetic and less sure of itself than anything Apple has done before. Previous iOS releases had that sense of, “this is what we’re doing. AND WHAT.”
This time it feels like they’re catching up to everyone else and putting themselves in that playing field (with Windows and Google). It’s the first time they’ve acknowledged that they want to be doing what their competition is doing – it’s a half step for Apple, previously they’ve always taken a full step.
CM: I don’t understand why this is a bad thing. They made a mistake and now they’re catching up. They made a mistake with skeuomorphism and now they’re catching up. Apple under Tim Cook is a very different beast than under SJ. His style is very different to Steve Jobs’.
MJ: Steve Jobs’ vision is what made Apple what it is — it’s about innovation. Apple isn’t pushing the way forward in how I interact with technology. iOS 7 is basically a flat design of iOS 6. With Windows Phone I at least get contextual information – it’s improving my online life and interaction through my device. I’m empowered. Google is a rich service with details on things like when I should leave for my meeting based on how bad the traffic is. What’s the Apple equivalent here? With this release they’re changing the standards of their delivery to the market. When Apple presents hardware they throw it down and it leaves the competition standing, while the core aesthetics of iOS 7 follow in the footsteps of Windows and Android, and borrow from the trend of modern/flat-ish design. To quote Steve Jobs, from whom all this started: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” I’d like to see Apple continue to lead.
Shiera Aryev: How do you know what’s going to stay and what’s going to go? We don’t really know how it’s going to evolve in the next four months and maybe when it actually comes out it will be mind blowing. There’s definitely things I don’t like but I think we’ll see a lot of refinements between now and the official release. This announcement was about making a statement – it’s a company culture shift for Apple.
Maybe this whole thing is about saying that the “Steve era is over” and a shift to a listening culture where they can present their beta to the world, see how people react and then make adjustments based on that feedback. In the era of Steve Jobs his whole philosophy was that the consumer doesn’t necessarily know what they want. iOS 7 shows them listening more to their customers – leaning towards listening rather than innovating. Dribble has been amazing for seeing design reactions to iOS 7 I think Apple will be paying attention.
I feel it’s reactive and nothing that we haven’t seen before. But it’s a huge leap forward in terms of allowing content to be more prominent. I think they’ve actually increased the depth a lot with the animations, interaction designs and visual hierarchy, allowing the animation and interaction design to deepen the experience and allow for deeper multitasking and navigation between tabs in Safari. The one-handed usability also seems to have been significantly improved. I hope that the final iOS 7 design will be something fresh and cohesive, but it’s definitely still too early to comment.
They have such a reputation and there are such huge expectations, but every company goes through this. They weren’t always the greatest. And you’re disappointed they’re borrowing from their competitors? That’s nothing new. The Palm Pilot was out for years before the iPhone, Apple just did it better.
“Double tapping home brings up full screen previews of various apps. Scroll back and forth and see previews of your apps in real-time. Some might say this is copying Window Phone, but really, this look was pioneered by Palm with the late, great, webOS.” Christina Warren, Hands On With iOS 7
MJ: It wavers my confidence in Apple. I’d love to see amazing things happen by release. To me, a company like Apple shouldn’t make glaring mistakes and the bar should have been set higher. When I do iterative design I might do 50%, but that 50% is on point. I also think that they took getting rid of skeuomorphism to such an extreme – and that’s the only lasting impact and impression that iOS 7 leaves. If it’s an attempt to start answering a question about the future of our interactions and relationships with our digital devices, Apple is only scratching the veneer without re-definding that relationship through rich, novel interactive and feature innovations that we’ve been accustomed to expect from them with such releases. They’ve levelled the playing field for everyone else.
CM: The biggest conceptual shift in the visual design of iOS 7 is the insistence of an honest attempt at addressing the question of what happens when the software a computer runs is treated as an intrinsic part of the computer itself. There is no more hardware and software; there is just, simply, the computer.
Jony Ive, and other proponents of modernism like Mies van der Rohe and Dieter Rams, have long held that good design is, by definition, honest design. We must allow form to follow function as we solve problems, providing only – and no more – than what the user needs.
Part of this process is to allow the materials we use to speak for themselves. Never hide a material behind a veneer, or worse yet, disguise it as something else. This is why we have physical Apple products that expose and even, in some sense, flaunt their physicality and materials. The urge to run our fingers along the surface of a Macbook or the curves of a Cinema Display is a visceral reaction to the honesty of what we see before us.
This treatment, however, is a bit more difficult when it comes to the digital realm. What does it mean to be true to the nature of the digital interface?
iOS 7 is the beginning of an answer to that question.
Meet the contributors
Shiera Aryev is a User Interface and User Experience Designer with a passion for creating meaningful experiences that evoke emotion and tell a story. She honed her storytelling craft at Sheridan with a degree in animation and fell in love with design in Barcelona after graduation. After a year and half in Spain she returned to Toronto, working for Xtreme Labs and startup Jungoo before joining TWG in January 2013.
Shiera is a results-driven designer with strong business analysis skills and a tenacious approach to understanding user problems. Her approach focuses on both aesthetics and functionality and she is a vehement advocate of clean, user-friendly design. She also writes songs, plays music, travels and snaps photos of people. Shiera has a thirst for knowledge and is always looking for new ways of improving her process and expanding her horizons, whether learning to code or attending meetups to connect with other designers. She’s always down for coffee so give her a shout!
Mustefa Jo’shen joins TWG as a Designer crossing the roles of Product Management, User Experience and Development to help facilitate Design Thinking through the planning, design and implementation of digital products at TWG. Motivated by the idea of breaking the barrier to design and shifting attitudes from ‘design is done by people on photoshop’ to one where Design Thinking is something that pervades all aspects of creating digital experiences, he loves involving and empowering everyone around him to be a designer, resulting in great products and experiences.
Mustefa previously led the design @sdelements (www.sdelements.com) and has provided leadership in design with Tucows Inc, and Shopcaster. He specializes in helping people ideate and create great products and experiences by working on strategy, branding, usability, and UX/UI design. He is also a founder at The Writing Project – an education technology startup in Toronto providing a writing framework for students, and is actively involved with the EdTech community and the IxDA.
Born in Moscow, Russia, and Iraqi by nationality, his international background shapes his diversity in approaching life, much like his native city of Toronto. When not working, he’s spending time with his amazing wife and daughter, who inspire him, teach him what life is really about, and keep him grounded.
You can follow him on Twitter for 140 characters or less.
Christopher Mudiappahpillai believes that Design can make the world a better place. His focus on facilitation, with both designers and developers as they solve customer problems, and his project management experience make him a valuable addition to the TWG team. He believes that every problem should be critically considered – “good enough” is not an option, and settling for less usually ends up costing more than the solution is worth in the long run.
Chris worked with the team at Big Bang over the course of three years, where he learned a lot about agile development, design, and scaling software along the way. He took that experience forward into Kera to explore analysis and best practices around web onboarding, usability, and gamification. He joined TWG in May 2013.
A philosophy graduate who has been playing with computers since he was around six or seven, Chris is an avid reader and photographer – feel free to stalk him on Flickr and Good Reads! He also loves to travel, and has a serious interest in extreme sports. You can follow him on Twitter if you’re into that sort of thing.
TWG is an Internet software company made up of designers, coders, thinkers and friends, with offices in Toronto and NYC. We work with a refreshing mix of technology start-ups, established media companies and recognized business brands like the Globe & Mail, Freshbooks, CBC and Telus, to craft powerful web and mobile applications. TWG plays a leading role in the tech community by incubating start-ups, building our own products, like PostageApp, and hosting technology and education events for our community.
We love what we do here at TWG, and believe that software will make the world a better place. With this mission in mind, we work with innovators every day to design and deliver success through software.