April 17, 2017


The word ‘Skeuomorphism’ or say ‘Skeuomorph’ has its root from Greek word ‘skeûos’ meaning vessel and  morphḗ meaning “form”).

It is a design principle where features copied from similar features in another object from the real world of our involvement and interaction in life. It is an object in software that mimics its real world counterpart A skeuomorph, thus is a derivative object that retains design cues or semblance from structures that are inherent to the original. All of these are mimetic; they mimic real-life objects in digital space.

Skeuomorphism ushered in around 1980s. One of its earliest proponents was Steve Jobs of Apple. The idea was simple; computer interfaces would be much more intuitive to users if skeuomorphic design was applied. Skeuomorphism is commonly used in many design fields, including user UI and Web design, architecture, ceramics and interior design.

In UI and Web design, skeuomorphism attempts to create three dimensional (3-D) effects on a 2-D (flat) surface.


  1. To make user familiar with the product.
  2. To make user comfortable with regard to functionalities.
  3. Enhance user experience by embedding better understanding of culture and norm.


  1. Physical
  2. Digital


Many features of wooden buildings were repeated in stone by the ancient greeks when they transitioned from wood to masonry construction. Decorative stone features in the Doric order of classical architectures in Greek temples such as triglyphs, mutules, guttae, and modillions derived from true structural and functional features of the early wooden temples.

Leather and pottery often carry over features from the wooden counterparts of previous generations.

Clay pottery has also been found bearing rope-shaped protrusions , Craftsmen sought familiar shapes and processes while working with new materials.

In the modern era, cheaper plastic items often attempt to mimic more expensive wooden and metal products, though they are only skeuomorphic if new ornamentation references the original functionality such as molded screw heads in molded plastic items.



Many computer programs have a skeuomorphic graphical user interface that emulates the aesthetics of physical objects.

The Trash Can is perhaps the most recognizable application of Skeuomorphism .

Digital contact list resembling a rolodex.

Systems that do not employ literal images of some physical object frequently contain skeuomorphic elements, such as slider bars that emulate linear potentiometers.

Smart phone display is designed to look as much like a telephone (or handset) as is feasible, typically with shadowing, highlights and some degree of detail.

A raised button until clicked and then appears to lower as if it had been physically pressed.

Non-visual skeuomorphs include the page-turning movement used to advance an eBook.

The sound of a record ending at the end of a CD .

Flashlight resembling real world.

The sound of a camera shutter on a digital camera ( Audio Skeuomorph)

Swiping hand gesture for turning the “pages” or screens of a tablet

Folder and File Images in system, Letter, symbol for email.

Sticky Notes on display screen.

Books, Paper and Stationery like resemblance.

Work Place and Environment resembling real world.

Analog and Digital like display.

Stitchings, Glass, Fabrics and Textures designed like real life.

Digital calendars looking like real life calendar etc.


However, Skeuomorphism is increasingly being criticized for its lack of ingenuity and its failure to pioneer designs that truly harness a computer’s superior capabilities, rather than forcing it to merely emulate the behavior of a physical object.


  • Helps understand the purpose and functionalities with ease.
  • It can create an impression of refinement and coat polish to it.
  • Safe and familiar approach for designers and viewers.
  • Develops attraction for the product simply based on looks.


  • Added Illustration causes delays in design and in development time.
  • Large files take longer to download and render in a browser.
  • Relies heavily on images rather than CMS.
  • May seem outdated as styles and trends change.
  • Skeuomorphic interface elements use metaphors that are more difficult to operate.
  • Takes up more screen space than standard interface elements, that this breaks operating system interface design standards, that it causes an inconsistent look and feel between applications.
  • Rarely incorporate numeric input or feedback for accurately setting a value, that many users may have no experience with the original device being emulated.
  • Can increasecognitive loadwith visual noise that after a few uses gives little or no value to the user.
  • Skeuomorphic design limits creativity by grounding the experience to physical counterparts.


In 2007 Forbes magazines announced the death of Skeuomorphism. Apple and (later by Google) had settled on a new design called as Flat Design.

Skeuomorphism no doubt helped a generation through the learning curve of coming to grips with a digital era. But, it also begun to hold us back. We became familiar with the concepts and they entered the language and our day-to-day lives but skeuomorphic design led to huge amounts of clutter on the desktop. They brought too many useless details to our computers which we no longer needed.

Skeuomorphism is often described as unnecessary decoration. The goal of design is not simplicity, but efficiency. An effective interface will be free of unneeded embellishments, but will also use affordances to its advantage, which may include skeuomorphs.

Design trends come and go.

Flat design came about in response to the over use of skeuomorphism.

The current trend in smartwatches is a return to Skeuomorphism – but for how long?

Smart watch is not a watch, it is rather, if portrayed this way- it is a computer worn on a wrist. Should we say, History repeats itself? Though that repetition may in manifestation differ, yet principally, isn’t it like saying, more the things change, more the things remain the same?

Skeuomorphism is replete with the concept of aesthetics.

Could then best features of abstractions coupled with skeuomorphism be the next trend? Or could it be then trying to imbibe and emulate the best and needy from all concepts and types of design and brand ourselves on different spectrum?

So will skeuomorphism ever go away? We should all hope not, so long our interaction with the environment we live in is a tangible experience for us. Emulation and seeking the experience in virtual world is just an expression assuring the same.

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