Famous Software Designer Scott Forstall and Skeumorphic Design

Posted on Nov 5, 2013 in Discover | No Comments
Famous Software Designer Scott Forstall and Skeumorphic Design

Scott Forstall made the headlines in 2012 when he was fired from his position at Apple. The legendary Apple software engineer has played a significant part in the history of software design, and most likely, in your own life. Forstall developed iOS, the operating system that runs your iPhone and your iPad.

Images: iPhones, iPad Mini






  • iPhones

  • iPad Mini

[Photo credits: Giant Bomb, Reuters]

Some people say that Forstall and Apple parted ways because of a difference in design philosophy. Forstall was really into skeumorphism, which many people thought was tacky and horrible, and other people think is nostalgic and quirky. You may have heard of skeumorphic design. You have definitely seen it and even used it, but do you know exactly what it is? In the photos below you can see some examples.

Image: Thermo, Mixing Desk

  • Thermo
  • Mixing Desk

[Photo credit: SachaGreif, Evantage Consulting]

Have you figured out what it means yet?

Skeumorphism is a style of designing software or digital or electronic equipment, that refers to an earlier, analog version of the same product by representing aspects of the old design on the new product. But some people misunderstand this term to mean anything that is modern and uses retro elements as a visual style.

What the term really means is that the visual element served a functional purpose on the former product, such as the mercury in the thermometer or the wires on the mixing desk; while in the digital version, it is used only as a visual embellishment and serves no practical purpose.

Scroll through the images below to see some of the skeumorphic designs that Forstall integrated into iOS Apple products. The lock doesn’t really unlock the phone, nor does the bookshelf really support the books. Some say that the leather stitching may or may not be skeumorphic, depending on whether it is merely decorative or holds the object together.

Image: iPhone Unlock, Leather Stitching, iBooks

  • iPhone Unlock
  • Leather Stitching
  • iBooks

[Photo credit: Every Interaction, Quora, The Daily Egg]

Skeumorphic design is attractive if you like the retro look. It’s nostalgic, and it makes new technology seem more physical and familiar. Even the folks at Apple couldn’t agree on this. It seems like people either love it or hate it. What do you think? Let us know!

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