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Skeuomorphic Design

Postby slippyfish » December 13th, 2010, 7:21 pm

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I learned a new word today: Skeuomorph. As in, "the iPad DJ app is a perfect example of skeuomorphic design".

A skeuomorph is a derivative object which retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original (thanks wikipedia).

Some examples, also from wikipedia:
Various spoke patterns in automobile hubcaps and wheels leftover from carriage wheel construction,
Fake woodgrain printing on thousands of modern items of plastic, Formica, or pressboard furniture,
Fake stitching in plastic items that used to be made of leather or vinyl and actually stitched together.

A Ducati Monster gas cap has five bolts, but only three of them are of any use, similar to an Audi TT gas cap I believe:

Image

So maybe the gas cap isn't a good example.

Has anyone designed a skeuomorph product or parts? Did you have to take a shower afterwards, or were you OK with it? A plastics engineer here once tried to talk me into "molding in the hex bolt heads" ... but only once.
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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby yo » December 13th, 2010, 9:55 pm

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Nice, I hadn't heard that term before, but will be using it for sure. One I've been using a lot is

Talismanic:

tal·is·man   
[tal-is-muhn, -iz-] Show IPA
–noun, plural -mans.
1.
a stone, ring, or other object, engraved with figures or characters supposed to possess occult powers and worn as an amulet or charm.
2.
any amulet or charm.
3.
anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions.

: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects

—Related forms
tal·is·man·ic  
[tal-is-man-ik, -iz-] Show IPA
, tal·is·man·i·cal, adjective
tal·is·man·i·cal·ly, adverb

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby linda_dong » December 13th, 2010, 10:51 pm

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I'm really glad to know that there's a word for that. I've been using the term 'vestigial', as in the evolutionary term for body parts that have lost their original function but are still carried on as traits.

Most times it makes me cringe but on certain products, like Leica camera bodies, it can work out.
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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby id8 » December 13th, 2010, 11:34 pm

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Senior 'senior' designers I worked with at my first corporate job who were around when drafting tables, chalk bags and blue prints were the norm used the term "farkle"; a combination of function and sparkle. At first I thought it had something to do with sparkling farts or something and so I thought it was an amusing derogatory comment during design reviews, well, until looked it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=farkle

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby linda_dong » December 14th, 2010, 12:21 am

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id8 wrote:Senior 'senior' designers I worked with at my first corporate job who were around when drafting tables, chalk bags and blue prints were the norm used the term "farkle"; a combination of function and sparkle. At first I thought it had something to do with sparkling farts or something and so I thought it was an amusing derogatory comment during design reviews, well, until looked it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=farkle


That's actually really funny because we use the term "farkle" all the time at our school to describe the cheesy lens flare glints people put on their chrome renderings.
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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby id8 » December 14th, 2010, 12:43 am

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@linda LOL, yep, that's what I was thinking!
@slippyfish, would chrome plated plastic count? not a proponent of that though did find it had to be a compromise at times regarding cost to get a little farkle on a detail like a button. I think authentic material of chrome metal would warrant a more talismatic (@yo) affect.. like chrome rings on Leica lenses (@linda)

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby yo » December 14th, 2010, 1:05 am

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I think Leica might be a good example of what slippy is talking about? Also, many cars have an upper grille even though their radiators draw air from bellow the bumper. The upper grille is a hold over of 60's and 70's tech, but is now the face of the brand...

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby Coffee87 » December 14th, 2010, 5:43 am


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Has anyone designed a skeuomorph product or parts? Did you have to take a shower afterwards, or were you OK with it?


Not exactly fake wood grain or bolts but yeah, working in an home accessories field requires designing not so useful objects with not so useful details sometimes.

Sometimes it bothers me but I try not to worry about it much. Rather than getting depressed about it, I like to think that it just takes time to educate the mass market consumer`s mind. A little step at a time...

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby slippyfish » December 14th, 2010, 1:18 pm

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I think the car grille is a perfect example, in addition to that curly-qued silver piece on the C-pillar of certain Cadillacs, which I believe was once a horse-whip holder. And then there's stick on "gills" or vents that get stuck on front fenders over the wheel well...yuck...

On a tinier level, even continuing a reveal line across an unbroken surface, if it abuts an actual reveal line, would also be a skeuomorph.

How about....Big fat rotating bezels on a wristwatch that has no business going under water for scuba-diving.
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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby Lmo » December 14th, 2010, 2:34 pm

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... that curly-qued silver piece on the C-pillar of certain Cadillacs which I believe was once a horse-whip holder.


A clarification; they are called "Landau bars". A Landau was a particular form of carriage, in particular, one with a "falling top" (predecessor of the "convertible"); it was essentially TWO tops which locked together in the middle. The folding mechanism consisted of a four-bar linkage; the "curly-qued" silver piece locked the frame work into position. The original "Landau" was created in Landau, Germany.

circa 1880
Image

Image

Since "carriages" were only owned by the wealthy these drop-tops were viewed, by other wealthy folks, as a sign of elevated status. Not as practical as a hardtop, I guess they were considered a "luxury". Funny, a rich man's luxury... ..

I like vestigial as well...
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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby Johnathan » December 14th, 2010, 3:14 pm

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This sounds very similar to a topic we covered in our design history class. One of the ideas that kept coming up for the different movements or styles was did they use materials honestly? Do they force a material to do something that it isn’t suited for and/or cover up what it was really made out of? Such as the knotted vine forms carved out of blocks of wood in the Art Nouveau period. I think as technology moves on and more materials are developed, the design of current products sometimes must be changed to match the processes and materials that are coming into the market, but sometimes design details are held over from the old design much like the “Vestigial” details that Linda mentions. One example I can think of is the wood Veneers on the Atari 2600.

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby rkuchinsky » December 14th, 2010, 4:17 pm

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Interesting topic.

I think there are a few different terms/ideas being mixed up here however, IMHO.

I'll recap from my perspective, but leave out names so you can call them what you like.

1. Decorative items that mimic a previously functional or material characteristic. Such as wood look plastic veneer, molded in bolts or stitching or side portal vents or scoops on a car that go nowhere. These are pure fakery and dishonest design unless used in a very knowing and ironic way such as a tromp l'oeil effect of printed stitching and pockets on some recent Marc Jacobs outerwear I've seen.

2. Design elements (functional or not) that reference historical details such as toggle switches in a mini or mechanical VDO type gauges on an electronic device. These can be used as emotional connective elements or to evoke a certain feeling of nostalgia or history. If done right, these can be great. If done poorly are lazy design.

3. Design constructions or features that left over from past products but have no current function, but have been adopted as standard. Such as the width of railroad tracks still being the same as the width of horse + carriage wheel tracks. Or women's clothing buttoning on the opposite side as mens back from women were dressed by the Chambermaid. These are often overlooked and built into products by designers not challenging the paradigm. More Anthropological curiosity than design issue, perhaps.

Thoughts? More examples?

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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby yo » December 14th, 2010, 4:24 pm

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You might say that the footwear industry is largely skeuomorphic. Not because of any outward detail, but because footwear is made on a last, and lasts are derived from and evolved from old world cobbler's techniques, not on foot shapes, with few exceptions (Birkenstocks, Nike Footscape, some of the original Nike Frees and many other attempts from other brands). When brands try to create a shoe around the foot, it is typically rejected by consumers as not being shoe like enough, fast, sleek, and sexy enough and as a consumer, I don't disagree. Sometimes it so heavily effects the way we perceive things.

That was a more positive example, a negative would be non movable shutters on tract home houses. The home is loaded with examples of this.

Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby yo » December 14th, 2010, 4:55 pm

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Re: Skeuomorphic Design

Postby Timf » December 14th, 2010, 5:34 pm

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How about the 1940 telephone receiver profile you always see on cell phone buttons and UI clicks.

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