A ‘Skeuoed’ Approach
The next time you take a picture using your smart phone and hear the reassuring shutter click sound, you should think of the word skeuomorphism! This is one design principle that has bestowed many objects with ornamental touches which make them resemble other objects. Thus, you have an electric teakettle that looks like a traditional teapot or even your ebook reader application on your device that looks like an actual book shelf.
When you look at the world of wearable technology, skeuomorphism can be seen in the world of smart watches. Smartwatches try and look like conventional wristwatches. Whether it is the case shape, the way they are strapped onto your wrist or even in their displays – people often talk about a smartwatch not looking like a smartwatch.
One company that has been doing a lot by way of skeuomorphism is Apple and it was only with the introduction of iOS7 that Apple showed a distinct move away from this design principle. Nevertheless, their watch is nothing but total skeuomorphism at work!
There is a lot of debate about using the principle of skeuomorphism for wearable technology. Do people not want the simplicity and attractiveness of skeuomorphism? After all, you know exactly which button to press when a skeuomorphic interface is showing you a good old-fashioned switch even if it is on a modern and digital device. Very different from flat design concepts!
As a wearable device, a smartwatch is all about its computing powers and yet people are more comfortable with it if it looks like a conventional watch. If you were to look at the history of how devices change in their design elements, it is indeed interesting to note that most new technological devices tend to imitate conventional technology. It is only a little later perhaps that those devices take on a form of their own. After all, today’s smart phones to not look anything like the old time rotary dial telephone now do they!
For sure, some skeuomorphism design elements we can do without – why would a metal strap on a smartwatch need to look like teak wood? But if skeuomorphism is going to result in a device that gives me modern edge functionalities with old world charm – that has to be a good thing indeed!
As with everything in the world of wearable tech, even design elements follow trends. Today it does seem like skeuomorphism is back with a bang and it allows designers a wider palette to choose from. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why there is an ever increasing number of collaborations between truly tech companies and fashion designers. The end result is a watch that not only looks smart but also functions smart. So, until we find a more powerful element to work with, we have to take a skeuomorphed attitude to design!