I read all articles that talk about trends with interest, as my personal philosophy with UX design is not to go with the latest trends but pick the solution that best solves the problem.

So it was with some skepticism that I read about the latest trend to make a 'come back' (I think brutalism was the last one), that being the much admired then dreaded skeuomorphic design with was often associated with Apple in their earlier (and more glorious) days.

In this reincarnation, one author states that:

Modern skeuomorphism, therefore, is the bridge at the intersection of digital and industrial design. It is about facilitating non-traditional device interaction without sacrificing usability. It is about enriching and enlivening real world objects in the context of our human physiology.


I am more of the opinion that:

Design trends come and go. Skeuomorphism can be very useful. It can also be taken too far.


Are there any distinguishing features of the current way that skeuomorphism is implemented in design different from what we have seen before? Has physical design merging with digital design in UX due to the popularity of IoT and wearable technology affected skeuomorphism in anyway?


3 Answers 3


Skeuomorphism was a trend, but it exists as a solution to a (UX) problem in the first place. Apple used skeuomorphism effectively to show analogies with the real world and make their products more accessible and less alien. It's a way to introduce modern digital products and to show what it resambles in the real world.

Is the current popularity of skeuomorphism primarily attributed to the importance of physical design merging with digital design in UX?

What we will see is the same pattern over and over again: While a concept is still new and not easily adopted, skeuomorphism will probably be a design choice. And with domotica, IOT etc. becoming more popular it won't surprise me if it becomes a trend again. (maybe less present and combined with flat design, who can tell...)

... or is it just a correction of minimalistic and brutalism associated with flat design

You could say that it's a "correction" in the way that minimalistic design doesn't have the desired effect. But I doubt it will be a correction based on just a principle.

There is the need for a more accessible approach to new digital concepts with an existing real world counterpart and skeuomorphism is a well known design pattern to achieve that.

  • +1 some very good points you have made here. I wonder if AR and voice driven interface will completely eliminate these types of design patterns in the future?
    – Michael Lai
    Nov 28, 2017 at 11:36
  • I don’t think so. I’ve seen AR road signs designed like real signs (even standing on a virtual pole) . This way it is clear that is a street name, traffic sign etc. For voice you see already the same thing happening: Siri for example tries to communicate natural, as a real person would. It is the same idea; to make a new concept (talking to a computer, on demand information in the real world using AR) understandable using real world analogies.
    – jazZRo
    Nov 28, 2017 at 12:38

I think we are already in a lite trend of Skeuomorphism merged with current minimalist and flat designs we see today.

Physical object icons are everywhere. Text boxes, buttons, labels and headings.

So Skeuomorphism is here in iconography.

But they are now being done in a "Delicate" and minimalist way because they are often flat and all the gradients of Apples skeuomorphic designs are gone.

So it's not so much that it is having a return into today's UX design, its already here. Just in a more clear and efficient way.

  • I would have assumed that skeuomorphic designs are in direct contrast with the flat/minimalistic design styles because they need to mimic or emulate real world objects. Of course, if there is also a trend in physical design to be more minimalistic then it would explain the trend in digital design in some way.
    – Michael Lai
    Nov 28, 2017 at 9:01

Apple's skeuomorphic design has been around a long, long time: on a Mac in the 1980s, you put files in the bin to delete them, and the bin bulged until you permanently deleted the files by emptying the bin.

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