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Is skeuomorphic style out of fashion? Is it necessary for design system to have skeuomorphic style for other elements in the system?

Is flat design not in trend anymore?

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    I think it fluctuates. A flat, minimal design is the norm now so to stand out you have to do something different. Commented Jan 30 at 7:54
  • If skeuomorphism and flat design are out of fashion, it's because there are one or several current or emerging styles that surpass them in avant-garde. What are these styles? It would be good to know them to structure an objective and coherent answer.
    – Danielillo
    Commented Jan 30 at 14:47
  • @Danielillo if both these styles are out of fashion. Which style according to you is trending?
    – NB4
    Commented Jan 31 at 6:56

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The academic answer

It's important to note that skeuomorphism isn't just "when thing looks 3D and literal". The old iPhone bookshelf being a literal bookshelf is certainly skeuomorphic design, but skeuomorphism goes wider:

  • If you have a button that turns darker and/or seems to move away from you when depressing it, you're using a skeuomorphic button which mimics real buttons recessing into little dark crevices whenever you press them. This has been the case in Windows 95 and still is the case almost everywhere today.
  • Material Design1 has a strong focus on elevation as a concept. Shadows aren't defined as "a 4px offset drop shadow", but "surface A has an 8px higher elevation than surface B". The despite material design being flat, and the material being able to shapeshift magically, still is just a skeuomorphic version of paper in many aspects.
  • The frosted glass design which gained in popularity lately also is skeuomorphic in nature in at least some aspects.

Overall, a lot of things in the virtual world are skeuomorphic, metaphorical or both. It's just a useful tool to let users intuitively understand what it is they're looking at.

1 Version 1 and 2 anyway - version 3 still uses elevation, but instead of shadows uses colors which is decidedly less grounded in our world.

The "what you probably meant" answer

When skeuomorphism is invoked, it typically does exclusively refer to the old iPhone bookshelf of yesteryear and perhaps the glossy everything everywhere. The concepts actually at play here may be better described as ornateness (how much decoration there is around things).

Overly ornate UIs are out of fashion right now, indeed. Historically, designs tend to swing between rather ornate and rather simple states in art, fashion and architecture. For computers, we so far have swung with "as much ornate UI as the processor can handle" until the Windows Vista era roughly, followed by the very simple designs of Windows 8 and Material Design. The swing right now is headed back towards ornate designs, with gradients, sparkles and fun animations creeping in across the board.

The new ornateness is different from what was in the past - we're not going full glossy and woodgrain again by the looks of it.

A thought on mixed reality

As a final thought, it just occurred to me that the most skeuomorphic and ornate area of UI design is happening in the futuristic lands of VR, AR, spacial computing and the metaverse.

Instead of having a meeting in an office where you look at slides on a projector, you now can have a virtual meeting in a virtual office where you look at slides on a virtual screen with virtual decoration as ornaments to what would otherwise be a simple zoom call. Instead of looking at your macbook's monitor you can look at your Apple Vision's virtual monitor.

For the function that the mixed reality spectrum offers, the current market leaders are extremely skeumorphic, literal and ornate in their offerings. A sort of Minority Report x Microsoft BOB crossover in many cases.

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  • Nice. Also, to go farther from skeuomorphism, I think a great deal of "ornateness" is now done via animation rather than static appearance. Commented Jan 30 at 13:07
  • I feel like the mention of Apple Vision is a bit premature considering it only just became available. Why not refer to the Quest 2, which is much more widely used and recognizable by name? Commented Jan 30 at 15:19
  • @Parrotmaster Look at the messaging around both products. The Quest 2 is marketed as a VR gaming device, while Apple markets the Vision Pro as a "revolutionary spatial computer" and pretty much avoids it shown being used for gaming wherever possible. Immersive narrative experiences can greatly benefit from VR, but that's out of scope for this question. For work and general computing purposes, what the Vision Pro, Quest Pro and Hololens are/were marketed towards, "floating rectangles with content" seems to not have been surpassed outside of niche applications. Commented Jan 30 at 20:12
  • @LeoWattenberg Everything you've said is correct, but that marketing doesn't automatically translate to people thinking of the Apple Vision Pro when they are asked about work through VR/AR. Commented Jan 31 at 10:06
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hope your day is going well. To give a straightforward answer to the main question, I think it's difficult to simply regard skeuomorphism/flat design as an old-school and poor visual style. Besides, minimalism has been one of a favourable trend in UX field for a long time since its first appearance, so I would answer for flat design, I don't think so.

Also I don't think it's the ideal approach in choosing design style, because aesthetic and trendy-ness is really the smallest aspect in UX/UI design. Rather, if you found some clear reasoning that implies it's worth to consider design UI using skeuomorphic style for your design, I think that would become a must-have, not the option that you should concern based on the visual trend. Because UXer's role is to find the best UX/UI design solution for users, not from the trend. Even many people laught at the design that it looks too old-school, if the old style nails the user's needs and better support them, then we can call it as a successful design for the product.

Whether the design is good/bad isn't decided by other designers in the field. It can be decided by the users of the product. Does it make any sense?

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