The End of Skeuomorphism?

 

In a world where there is an increasing dependence on virtual interfaces in the form of computer, tablet and phone screens, there is been a natural desire to hold on to familiar pasts. While a touchscreen device offers unlimited possibilities for interface innovation, we’ve found ourselves peering into a reflection of obsolete pasts–vestigial pieces that only exist to make us feel comfortable about the future. Why is this? In a time where humans are creating new technologies at an incredible pace, we should be focused on how these can best be nurtured rather than weighing them down with our past. In order to free ourselves for true innovation, we need to rid ourselves of our dependence on skeuomorphism.

 

What is a skeuomorph? A skeuomorph is a design element that imitates a feature that was functionally necessary to an original design, while being merely ornamental in its current state. For example, a modern “engineered hardwood” floor may have a printed wood-grain pattern on its surface. While the engineered material is likely a vast improvement over natural wood—with no warping, staining, or cracking to worry about—the idea of real wood is familiar and comforting to us. After all, few people stand in awe of the perfectly aligned particulate beneath our feet. Another example is window mullions—the dividing bars of a window pane. While at one time these were necessary to divide individual pieces of glass, we now have the capability to produce more efficient glass panels at any size, rendering a grid of smaller panes obsolete. Still, we have a cultural connection to those bars, going so far as to superficially glue them to a window that is perfectly functional without them.

 

 

This theme is nothing new. From hubcaps to greek Greek columns, pleather jackets to flame-shaped lightbulbs—this idea is instilled in us. It has only been with the rise of the on-screen interface that we’ve seen how deeply engrained skeuomorphism is within human culture. One of the earliest adaptations in the computing world is the file folder. Most of us use tabbed file folders everyday. But, how many of them are physical folders? I see 15 folders on my desktop right now and not a single one is made of paper. Rather, they are made of pixels, and hold nothing but 1′s and 0′s. If you save a document, likely you will be clicking on an icon shaped like a floppy disk. Yet, when was the last time you saved something to a physical floppy disk? I haven’t even seen one in a well over a decade.

 

In recent years, Apple has been at the forefront of the skeuomorphic interface. Their iBooks are neatly displayed on a wood-grained bookshelf and all calendar events are posted in a leather-bound planner. Are these visual cues necessary? Will a user lose all reference for their task if they are not reassured by objects from the real world? As a designer, I feel there is a better solution. Microsoft—not known for their design chops—has challenged Apple’s direction with the introduction of Windows 8. With a heavy dependence on typography, blocks of color, and simplified icons, Microsoft hopes to break current trends. This week Apple has taken note, firing their lead software guru Scott Forstall, who along with the late Steve Jobs is a proponent of the skeuomorph.

 

 

While it has yet to be seen whether consumers will respond well to the lack of real-world reference in early stages, it seems to me that this is the direction that we need to move. We need to embrace technologies as they apply to us now, not as they once did. But what of the future? Will we one day be using some unfathomable device in which its book reader feature looks like an old-school iPad? We’ll have to wait and see.

Wine in a Bag?

Sure we may all know of the classic Franzia wine bag within a box, but that is not what I am talking about here. In reading up on new packaging techniques, I came across an article that I found to be quite interesting. Overall, the concept makes a lot of sense. This new package design is a double gusseted stand up pouch used for wine called the AstraPouch.

Highlights:

• the pouch’s clear laminated film can be displayed on ice without daAstrapouchmaging the decoration

• die-cut handle can double as hanging holes if a retailer wants to hang the pouch from a peg

• due to its size, it can fit right in a six-pack’s place in a convenience store’s cooler case

• the lightweight pouches cost less to ship. Unfilled Astrapouches reduce gas emissions by 85% compared with unfilled standard glass bottles on a per-liter basis.

• the Astrapouch reduces landfill volumes by at least 70% compared with glass bottles

• the pouches are so much less prone to breakage than glass bottles, so they also require less tertiary packaging

But the end question will be, would you drink wine from a pouch?

Turns out the key audience for this endeavor is millennials. From research, it is said that the demographic has a completely different view of wine than other demographics and that they are more likely to experiment with new things. This pouch also holds about two bottles worth of wine!

So let’s get down to the good part–the package design. This package is clearly larger than an ordinary wine bottle, so therefore gives any designer a much larger area to work their magic. A designer can decorate the entire front of the package, and the AstraPouch’s double-gusseted design makes sure the art isn’t distorted by bulges and creases in the front panel. Multilayer film pouches, such as the AstraPouch, brilliantly display designs by overlaying a transparent film over the printed film. This gives the pouches a bright, glossy appearance. And the pouch printing-and-converting process doesn’t require the gripper edges associated with many other package deco-and-manufacturing processes. So designers can have their artwork bleed off edges. (source)

So now that we have talked about the package itself, what about the design? The name of the company that took the plunge into the wine pouch world is called Bluebird. Instead of using the traditional wine color pallet, the design company hired to make this pouch come to life, CF Napa opted for the use of blue. Blue is not typically used in wine packaging which would be a signature move for the company and not to mention it helps reinforce their brand name which so many people have trouble remembering.

Choosing light blues as the primary colors also enabled CF Napa to play with complementary colors, such as the reverse white and bright orange, in their design. The resulting look, is crisp and clean, and it really stands out on retail shelves.

 

More on color…

With all of the hype on portion control and calorie counting, I find it odd that not more of these types of products are out in the world today. Sure, there are the 100 calorie pack and the new nutrition keys–but a lot of the foods and beverages out there can be deceiving. You think that you are eating or drinking something that is low calorie but when you look closer– what you just ate was three times the amount per serving!

I am a fan of the more direct, clear cut line of thinking. So of course when I saw this line of packaging, I had to read more. This is yet another example of how color can play a key role in package design. Here, the calorie count is big, and the colors are bold and eye catching. Just because you are calorie counting doesn’t mean your food or drink needs to be boring or not look as appetizing. The colors each have their own significance; for example the magenta means that the items contains beef or pork.

In reading this article, the use of color coding makes this line very easy to understand and still pleasing to the eye. To read more on the color codes click here

Award Winning

Even though baby food is clearly for baby consumption–that does not mean that the baby is the decision maker/purchaser of the product. Moms and dads are the audience that these products appeal to. So with that said, should the package designs be kid friendly?

Take a look at Little Duck Organics. This package in particular was awarded “Best Packaging” at Expo East 2011 for their new packaging designs. The product is a wholesome organic children’s snack “Tiny Fruits.” This packaging clearly speaks to adults with a very simple yet innovative personal tone. The brand recognition is simple, as are the flavors. The claims are clear and you can see what the product looks like.

2011-littleduckorganics

Night life in a bottle

Smirnoff is introducing new limited edition bottles based on the nightlife of four of the world’s biggest party locations. Starting last year, this campaign was set to aim to reflect the atmosphere and culture of their place and also have recipes on the bottle for cocktails that best suit that area.

The first four locations are as follows: New York, London, Rio de Janeiro and Australia. According to Pop Sop, “New York famous for being the city that never sleeps, has a wide range of clubs to fit any wallet and taste. London is proud to invite visitors to the coolest clubbing scenes in the world like Ministry of Sound or Club Aquarium where people can dive in the swimming pool or jacuzzi. Rio De Janiero ‘makes’ people moves people through its streets day and night to the rhythm of samba. Nightlife in Australia is diverse, welcoming and unique as every location has something specific to offer.”

Let’s take a look at the good stuff, the design!

Notice with the London bottle–it has a bit of a refined look, while the New York bottle seems to have more of a graffiti look to it.

What do you think? What about other cities? Will there be more?

Better with Age?

As you may have seen in previous posts on “The W” as well as our facebook page, Coca Cola is celebrating its 125th year.

To a designer, how do you stay on top of such a globally recognized brand? Take a look at the new can set to hit shelves this Fall. You will notice that the can still features the solid aluminum background however, look at what is magnified:

 

Who would think that a simple magnification would create such an impact? Not to mention with the enlarged “D” in Diet resting on top of the “k” in Coke, the full brand name is not revealed. Bold? Daring? I guess that doesn’t seem to matter–according to Ad Week (regarding the full brand not showing) they say that, “…the beauty of having a brand that’s already best-selling diet soft drink in the world: you don’t have to worry about things like that.”

So even though regular Coca-Cola has been releasing throw back cans, collectibles and limited edition cans, it looks like Diet is sticking to what they know and what has been working for them. The design is simple–even more so than before.

 

Is it safe to say that Diet Coke gets better with age?

 

Alexa Meade: Living Paintings

Deceiving work from D.C. artist Alexa Meade. Her “living paintings” collection has garnered quite a bit of media recently, and for good reason. Check out more after the jump, or visit her website at www.alexameade.com.

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Ambigrams by John Langdon

John was my advanced typography professor at Drexel, and as you can see he is very talented. When it comes to ambigrams, he is the world’s foremost authority. His work can be seen in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, and he is in fact part of the inspiration for the the story’s protagonist, Robert Langdon. Even the hair made it to the big-screen via Tom Hanks’ questionable quasi-mullet.

Check out more HERE.

 

Pencil Tip Micro Sculptures By Dalton Ghetti

Great stuff from a very patient fellow. Check out more after the jump.

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