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Skeuomorphism is the design concept/aesthetic of making items resemble their real-world counterparts. Skeuomorphism is mainly used virtually in user interface (UI) and web design. However, non-virtual, Traditional Skeuomorphism can extend to architecture, ceramics and interior design. Skeuomorphism contrasts with Flat Design, a simpler, less detailed graphic style. The word skeuomorph comes from the Greek words skeuos (meaning “container or tool”), and morphḗ (meaning “shape”)[1].

Visuals[]

A skeuomorph (also spelled skiamorph) is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues (attributes) from structures that were necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs are typically used to make something new feel familiar in an effort to speed understanding and acclimation. It employ elements that, while essential to the original object, serve no pragmatic purpose in the new system. One of the key advantages of Skeuomorphism is that it can help to make digital interfaces feel more natural and intuitive. By mimicking real-world objects and materials,[2] Skeuomorphism can help to reduce the cognitive load on users, making it easier for them to understand how to interact with a digital device. [3]

Differences with Frutiger Aero[]

Skeuomorphism is often confused with Frutiger Aero because both aesthetics developed around the same era (c. 2004-2013). Skeuomorphism is applied solely to graphics that resemble reality already, or makes use of realistic textures/elements[2]. Examples of this would be an e-reader's virtual wooden bookshelf or a calendar app that resembles a physical planner. Skeuomorphism often contains glossy, shiny, and depth filled 3D design motifs similar to another aesthetic that was popular at the time, Frutiger Aero. Due to this there is a lot of overlap between the two, people often misinterpreting them as the same aesthetic. However, since glossy elements and 3D depth filled designs are not exclusive to any aesthetic, something that could fall under the "Frutiger Aero" umbrella doesn't necessarily have to be Skeuomorphic.

Subgenres[]

Traditional Skeuomorphism[]

Traditional Skeuomorphism refers to any derivative object that retains ornamental design cues (attributes) from structures that were necessary in the original that is outside of the realm of digital designs and aesthetics. Traditional Skeuomorphism isn't a solitary aesthetic in its own right, but rather simply a design style that has existed for hundreds of years.

Note: The majority of this article is about "digital" Skeuomorphism as an aesthetic, not Traditional Skeuomorphism as a design concept.

Glassmorphism[]

Main article: Glassmorphism

Glassmorphism, known officially as Fluent Design System, is an aesthetic and UI/UX design theme that combines elements of Flat Design with modern design philosophies. It combines depth, motion, and material to create a seamless user experience, while preserving the clean look and feel Flat Design introduced; it shares similarities with both Flat Design and Frutiger Aero. It has been used in UI design since the Mid-2010s, and some notable examples include Microsoft Fluent Design, which was first introduced in 2017 and is now being used in Windows 11, Bing, and Microsoft Edge UI. Android custom UI/UX, mostly Chinese brands, such as EMUI, ColorOS, and MIUI have also been using this since around 2015-2016. Recently, some Linux distros have also been implementing this design; iOS/macOS have been the first using it since 2013. Glassmorphism/Fluent Design is not a subgenre of Skeuomorphism because they don't have much in common, and breaks the realistic motifs of Skeuomorphism. However, it can be considered an adjacent/heavily related aesthetic. Neumorphism is a subgenre of Glassmorphism as well as Skeuomorphism.

Neumorphism[]

Main article: Neumorphism

Neumorphism, also referred to as Claymorphism, is a design language and Glassmorphism sub-aesthetic that combines elements of Skeuomorphism and Flat Design. It emphasizes soft, rounded shapes, subtle shadows, and gradients. It is often used in UI/UX designs to create a more realistic, natural look and feel. Neumorphism was created in 2019 by independent Figma community designers. Windows 11 and macOS only apply Neumorphism to certain icons but not to their entire UIs[4].

Dark Aero[]

Main article: Dark Aero

Dark Aero, also known as Mata Nero or Frutiger Ego, is a sub-genre of Frutiger Aero and Skeuomorphism popular from c. 2006-2015. Dark Aero uses a darker color palette contrasting the depth-filled colorful motifs characteristic of Frutiger Aero. This gave the aesthetic a more simplistic look, which lead to it still being used after Frutiger Aero's decline. Another one of Dark Aero's main signature characteristics is aero glass. Dark Aero can be described as the middle ground between Frutiger Aero and Skeuomorphism due to its Frutiger Aero-esque imagery combined with Skeuomorphism's color palette. Whilst Frutiger Aero was more commonly used for mass market and commercial products, Dark Aero focused on high-end and enterprise-oriented items and services. Dark Aero was also commonly used for for modern tech such as smartphones, computers, TVs, cars, etc.

Dark Skeuomorphism[]

Main article: Holo

Holo, also known as Dark Skeuomorphism, is a device theme and Skeuomorphism sub-aesthetic. It was developed by Google in Android versions three to five (five releases) and it was used from 2011-2015. It was used in Honeycomb (2011), Ice Cream Sandwich (2011), Jelly Bean (2012), KitKat (2013), and Lollipop (2014, to a lesser extent). Holo is a subgenre to and very similar to Skeuomorphism due to it's use of depth, texture, shading, and pseudo-3D imagery that attempts to mimic real world objects. This version of Skeuomorphism, however, is more watered down and flatter. Holo's backgrounds can be described as dark, simplistic yet calming due to its "cold" color palette; the most common colors are black, blue, indigo, violet, cyan, and purple. This is normally complimented with see-through abstract patterns or graphical effects.

Post-Morphism[]

Post-Morphism, Also known as Skeuoflatism[5], Flat Skeuomorphism or alternatively Matte Design, was used during the decline of Skeuomorphism, which marked the transition from saturated realism to a simpler interface design, This design trend was used from 2014-2017. This design trend combines elements of Skeuomorphism and Flat Design. It features a simpler version of Skeuomorphism that doesn't use realistic textures but instead uses a bit of glossy shadows, reflections, subtle gradients and lighting effects.[6] This trend is still being used by several Linux distributions, as well as macOS, iOS, and some Android user interfaces. Post-Morphism is essentially to Skeuomorphism what Frutiger Metro is to Frutiger Aero, both combining elements of Flat Design with their parent-aesthetic.

History[]

First Uses (1980s-1990s)[]

Skeuomorphism has its roots in the field of industrial design, where it has long been used to make new products feel more familiar and comfortable to users. However, in the context of user interface (UI) design, the goal is not just to make digital interfaces feel more familiar, but also to make them more intuitive and easy to use. By drawing on the user's existing knowledge of real-world objects and materials, Skeuomorphism can help to reduce the learning curve and make it easier for users to understand how to interact with a digital device.[3]

One of the earliest examples of Skeuomorphism in UI design can be found in the Apple Macintosh 128K. The Macintosh's "desktop" metaphor, which used a virtual desktop complete with icons of real-world objects like documents and trash cans, was heavily influenced by Skeuomorphism.

Prime (2000s-Early-2010s)[]

Skeuomorphism continued to be a popular approach in UI design throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with many software applications and operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows and Apple's Macintosh, incorporating skeuomorphic elements into their design. For example, iOS's address book app uses a leather-bound book as a metaphor for the address book, and the calendar app uses a physical paper-based calendar. This period (c. 2004-2013) is when Skeuomorphism reached its cultural peak.

Decline (Early-Mid-2010s)[]

Skeuomorphism continued to be widely used up until the very early 2010s. After Windows 8 was released in 2012, it was clear that Skeuomorphism was slowly starting to decline in favor of a more flat design, but the release of iOS 7 in 2013 marked the true death of Skeuomorphism in a lot of people’s eyes[7]. The new design that started being used instead became known as Post-Morphism, which is an aesthetic derived from Skeuomorphism mixed with elements of Flat Design. This replacement was likely due to the critics who argued that skeuomorphic design can be confusing and unnecessary, and that it can actually make digital interfaces less efficient and more difficult to use. Instead, many designers have begun to adopt a more minimalistic approach, focusing on simplicity and functionality over realism known as Flat Design. This was the end of Skeuomorphism's popularity, as it was soon completely replaced by Flat Design in most circumstances.

Resurgence (2021-present)[]

In recent years (c. 2021 onwards), Skeuomorphism has started to make a slight comeback in a more modern and minimalist approach. This new style is known as Neumorphism, and was started by independent UI designers in 2019 in an effort to mix Skeuomorphism with minimalism and flat design. This aesthetic went on to be used partially[4] in Windows 11 (along with Glassmorphism) which was released in 2021.

Since 2022, Skeuomorphism (along with similar aesthetics from the 2000s such as Frutiger Aero) have started coming into public favour again thanks to social media such as TikTok bringing it into the public eye again. This is mainly due to both nostalgia, and people growing tired of the more recent Flat Design and Corporate Memphis aesthetics (the polar opposite of Skeuomorphism).

Media[]

TV Shows[]

Many things below fall into this category because they might: use realistic animation techniques (ex: stop-motion, CGI, etc.), depict the life of a realistic object (ex: toys, plushes, dolls, food, etc.), or make use of realistic textures. Some elements were added by other users and could be considered within this category simply because they developed around the same time, which is the early to mid-2010s.

  • Thomas the Tank Engine (1994-2000)
  • Pingu (1996-2006)
  • Blue's Clues (1996-2010)
  • Elmo's World (1998)
  • Lazy Town (2004)
  • Shaun the Sheep (2007)
  • Yo Gabba Gabba! (2007)
  • Imagination Movers (2008)
  • Masha and the Bear (2009-Present)
  • The Twisted Whiskers Show (2010)
  • The Amazing World of Gumball (2011-2022)
  • Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse (2012-2015)
  • Grizzy and the Lemmings (2016)
  • Fuzzy Friends (2018-2020)

Movies[]

  • Muppets (1979-2015)
  • Toy Story (1995-2019)
  • Chicken Run (2000)
  • Wall-E (2008)
  • Coraline (2009)
  • Despicable Me (2010-2017)
  • Rio (2011)
  • Wreck-it Ralph (2012)
  • The Croods (2013)
  • Ted (2012-2015)
  • Minions (2015)
  • Inside Out (2016)
  • Sausage Party (2016)

Video Games[]

  • Guitar Hero series (2005-2015)
  • Papa's series (2007-2018)
  • Microsoft Mahjong (2008-2012)
  • Little Big Planet (2008-2014)
  • Call of Duty saga (2009-2016)
  • Minecraft (2009-present)
  • League of Legends (2009-present)
  • Blocksworld (2013-2020)
  • F1 2011 (2011)
  • Uncharted 3 (2011)
  • PES (2011-2013)
  • GTA V (2013)
  • Five Nights at Freddy's (2014)
  • Mortal Kombat X (2015)
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure (2020)
Mobile Apps[]
  • BuddyPoke (2008)
  • Doodle Jump (2009)
  • Plants vs. Zombies. game series (2009-2021)
  • Angry Birds saga (2009-2022)
  • Cut the Rope (2010)
  • Fruit Ninja (2010)
  • Talking Tom & Friends saga (2010-2022)
  • Where's My Water? (2011)
  • Jetpack Joyride (2011)
  • Dragon City (2011)
  • Kick The Buddy (2011)
  • Clash of Clans (2012-present)
  • Candy Crush saga (2012)
  • Cats Away (2012)
  • Subway Surfers (2012)
  • Clash Royale (2016)

Operating Systems[]

  • Apple Macintosh 128K
  • Microsoft Windows 98 (1998)
  • Linux Distros (2004-Present)
  • Nintendo DS (2005)
  • Nintendo Wii (2006)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista (2007)
  • iOS 1-6 (2007-2013)
  • Android 1.0-4.4 (2008-2013)
  • Mac OS X 10.5-10.9 (2007-2013)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 (2009)

User Interfaces[]

  • Samsung TouchWiz (2009-2016)
  • Xiaomi MIUI (2010-2016)
  • Huawei EMUI (2012-2018)

Resources[]

Links[]

Gallery[]

References[]

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