And this is not a return to skeuomorphism.
I’m not a fan of neomorphism. If you follow me in TwitterYou may have noticed that I’m usually pretty critical, or at least skeptical about this visual style. There are several reasons, from accessibility issues, to, of course, personal preference.
Countless articles have been written on this topic in recent months. Aside from those calling it the “2020 trend” (as if this year wasn’t bad enough anyway), just because it’s “trendy” on Dribbble, a number of designers have researched it extensively.
I am not writing this article to say that neomorphism is good (it is not) or bad (it is). I am writing this because soon after Apple’s WWDC 2020, I began to see more and more articles claiming that: “APPLE ACCEPTS NEOMORPHISM !!! “.
In response, I ask: “Where?!”
What are the characteristics of neomorphism?
I’m confused. Maybe we should first sort out the definition neomorphism… If we look at the search results on Dribbble (where this circus started), I think we can come to a common denominator and decide whether a particular design is following this trend or not.
The most obvious principle is that most interface components are designed as if they were solid elements under the background, pressed against the surface. Shapes are defined by the shadows they cast and the highlights generated by a hypothetical light source, usually in a corner.
In most cases, buttons are the same color as the surface they are lying on. So, for example, a button on a light gray background is also light gray (hence the controversy about accessibility).
In short, this is neomorphism.
Now let’s take a look at the updated design of macOS …
I’m really having a hard time finding similarities between what we see in macOS Big Sur and the neomorphism examples with Dribbble. Perhaps this is the only element that vaguely resembles neomorphism (but in fact it is not):
I don’t think this slider is enough to say that MacOS Big Sur is Apple’s move towards neomorphism. If you are one of the people who are convinced that the new MacOS imitates neomorphism, please help me understand where exactly.
Back to skeuomorphism?
I think we can all agree that there is nothing skeuomorphic about MacOS Big Sur except for a few application icons. But let’s talk about them. Let’s first compare them to the current macOS Catalina icons.
Now take a look at the Mail or View icon. Can we say that macOS is back to skeuomorphism? Of course, some icons, such as “FaceTime” and “Messages”, look more voluminous in Big Sur, but NOT skeuomorphic. The Viewer application icon is skeuomorphic (both old and new), the FaceTime and Messages icons are 3D (shny). Other icons, such as Reminders, are less skeuomorphic in Big Sur than in Catalina, where it looks more like a real notebook.
In any case, there is no “return” if you have not moved forward.
MacOS icons have always been skeuomorphic, nothing new here. In fact, Apple is taking a step towards making app icons look like iOS and iPad OS icons. It seems to me that this is a temporary compromise until all operating systems are combined.
They found a way to transform iOS icon design through the lens of the visual language of macOS icons. So there is no return to skeuomorphism, it has always been in the system.
For a number of reasons, it seems that some designers cannot leave neomorphism alone, despite the obvious fact that not a single major product has yet been remade for this “trend” (is a trend that no one uses a trend? Philosophical question).
MacOS Big Sur following trends? Yes. Subtle gradients, soft shadows, translucency are some of the trends we’ve seen for quite some time. Is there anything indicative of neomorphism? Not really.
Some macOS icons are 3D or skeuomorphic! But they have been like this for many years.