Sunday, December 02, 2012

skeuomorphs

In product design, the simplest thought exercise is to make additions. It’s the easiest way to make an Old Thing feel like a New Thing. The more difficult exercise is to reconsider the product in the context of now. A now which may be very different from the then in which the product was originally conceived.
-- Craig Mod, in his essay Subcompact Publishing
Skeuomorph [skyoo-uh-mawrf] — a design element of a product that imitates design elements that were functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design.
It's hard to let go of skeuomorphs, they're cozy and familiar, and sometimes they are intentionally maintained, as Steve Jobs was apparently fond of for iPhone designs. But there are some really interesting things happening out there by people who are eschewing old things and thinking completely "in the context of now."

 The News & Record's new website design utilizes a lot of skeuomorphs. Do they enhance the user experience or are they the product of legacy thinking layered on an old thing to make it feel like a new thing? Do these leftovers from newspaper design help or a hinder the use of the site?
  • A masthead 
  • Columns (layout, not written pieces, although those too, perhaps).
  • Sections
  • A division between writers and readers
  • Galleries
  • Editions
I wonder what the News & Record would look like on the internet if they stopped thinking about putting the "paper" online and asked themselves what is the most interesting and valuable digital product their resources are capable of producing.

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