Apple iOS 7: A New Design Philosophy

By Johnson Lu on August 23, 2013

Good design goes unnoticed, which is why a lot of people describe the iPhone as being “well-designed” but find it hard to pinpoint one specific feature. Apple places a lot of emphasis on the design of their products because they realize that design and usability go hand-in-hand.

This case study of the new iOS 7 design will hopefully show you how to create a more aesthetically pleasing app, and also show you how design corresponds with user experience.

Brief History of iOS Design

The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. Steve Jobs described the iPhone as “not just a communication tool but a way of life”. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone market and popularized the skeuomorphism design movement.

Skeuomorphism in simple terms, is the imitation of real life objects in a digital visual space. Think about apps such as Notes, which was designed to look like a real notebook. This design philosophy was appropriate at the time of the iPhone’s release because smartphones were new technology and thus people needed to learn how to use them. Simple visual cues such as a clock for the time app allowed users to adapt and learn how to use a new technology.

However, times have changed and our consumption of information has increased drastically. We want to take in more information in a shorter amount of time. Over the past year or two, there has been a move towards simpler designs which facilitate our information consumption habits.

iOS 7 Design Changes

Here are a few screenshots of the latest iOS 7 designs, note the overall simplification of all design elements. The heavy gradients and superfluous effects of older iOS designs are replaced with shallower gradients and simpler graphics. Many of the older app icons have been redesigned to suit the new changes.

A New Design Philosophy

The two overarching themes for the new iOS 7 redesign are simplicity and usability. Apple has definitely been influenced by the flat design movement, which prioritizes content over design. The new minimalist approach to iOS 7 is much more user-centric and focuses on the needs of the user rather than the design.

Using Apple as an Example to Improve Your Own Apps

There is much to be learned from Apple’s redesign of iOS. Usability is a major component of any successful app and cannot be neglected. It is not enough to have a good looking app, it must also provide a good user experience.

While minimalistic designs have been on the rise in the past few years, the iOS 7 is going to introduce it to the masses. It will be interesting to see how existing apps redesign their interfaces to suit the new changes in iOS 7.

The most important thing to take away from the iOS 7 changes is the fact that there will always be evolution. Even though the original iPhone changed the smartphone market forever, the later iterations haven’t had the same impact. Also the design philosophies which made sense in the last decade have been made obsolete by our own usage and consumption habits.

It is important to always be improving, even if it something as petty as updating your app design.