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The Verdict Is In: Designers REALLY Don't Like the iOS 7 Icons

Chris Dickman Thu, 06/13/2013 - 12:16

While there seems to be much to like in Apple's upcoming iOS 7, the verdict from the design community is in: the new GUI is inconsistent, while the icons and color palette are... well, perhaps the words "baffling" and "inexcusable" are a polite way to paraphrase the white-hot heat emanating from a community that has long been a core user of Apple technology, as well as one of its staunchest defenders. It should be pointed out that what was shown during Apple's presentation on Monday is not cast in stone, so there is hope that the icon color scheme — best described as that of a twelve-year-girl's bedroom viewed while under the influence of mind-altering drugs — can yet be brought back to the realm of the tolerable. And a rethinking of some of the wackier icons would also not be remiss, as well as the font choice of Helvetica Neue Light.

How could this have gone so terribly wrong, coming from the firm that popularized the use of graphical interfaces? It would be easy to lay the blame at the door of Jonathan Ive, who beyond hardware now also "provides leadership and direction for Human Interface software teams across the company." But according to news reports, two teams were responsible for the design of iOS 7, with much of the input for the new icons coming from Apple's marketing and communications department. Perhaps it thought the new look would help Apple catch up in particular markets, where the attraction for ugly but colorful objects is well known (that was a joke). Who knows? But the blowback has reached the point where there is already a petition on Change.org demanding the removal of these icons. Okay, that was also a joke. But what isn't a joke is the scorn heaped on Apple by designers, as collated in Designers Complaining on Tumblr. I've included a few gems below. Advantage, Microsoft.

1 Comment

admin's picture

I must admit when I first saw the colors and mix of illustration styles I also took a back. But with use I gained the opposite opinion.

It's Beta 1, so it's going to change a lot until it actually ships. It takes a few month and even years to get it polished.

There is consistency and order with the icons because of the the grid, the shape (rounded corners) and size. The content of the icons need not te be consistent. They have to reflect the nature of the app. In fact having consistent monochromatic icons like on Windows Phone is not good user experience, because you have to look harder to identify the icon you're looking for. By using various colors and styles Apple helps the user to find the icon he's looking for at a glance, while not compromising on order. If you look at the Android screen the Google apps have at least 3 different illustration styles and when you add in 3rd party icons and widgets the screen looks completely disorganized because there is no consistency in size and shape.

Anything new and outside of the familiar is met with with opposition. Humans by nature don't like change. Be it music, food or art we always have a hard time accepting anything our of ordinary. Try offering cricket tacos, classical chinese music or Artur Żmijewski art to your friends and see how much they will hate it, yet it's all good. It takes time to learn, understand and even appreciate new things. iOS 7 is introducing a new design language that is not constrained by typical design rules. It breaks them and redefines them. A few months after it is released people will learn to like it and it will influence everything.

The new identity is not constrained to the icons and it must be appreciated in the small high-res screen with animations and all. Not on a computer screen in large size in static. It's a completely different feeling. Also, in real life you will not have all the Apple apps next to each other like that. They will be mixed in with other 3rd party icons which changes the feeling considerably.

With use it's not disappointing at all. Quite the opposite. It's a great foundation for the next few years and it's a definite positive overall change.