With the rumor mill in full swing, the anticipation for Jony Ive’s design changes to iOS couldn’t be higher. What will it look like? How drastic will the difference be? How flat is “very very flat”?
Now, I’m not under the impression that Apple—especially Ive—is interested in moving backwards when it comes to design ideas (or any ideas for that matter), but the images above seem an interesting example of what we might expect from the new direction. The images are both from the famous Steve Jobs Macworld 2007 Keynote where the iPhone was first introduced. In the first, Steve discusses the three-pronged pitch for the iPhone as iPod, Phone, and Internet Communicator. The second is from later, after the reveal.
As you can see, the icon set that Steve shows on the slide is clearly flat excepting the iOS shine effect, especially if you compare it to today’s icons in which the phone app has diagonal stripes in its background. The shipped icons, especially Safari, show a much more skeuomorphic style. Now, they aren’t strictly skeuomorphic in the purest sense, but they represent that style’s emphasis on texturing and glossy graphic detail that is absent from most flat design.
In light of these images, it would appear that Jony Ive—who had a larger part in designing the interface of the iPhone 1—preferred the flat aesthetic even then. Aside from Settings, all of the iPhone’s primary functions use iconic designs against round-rects with the shine added. What we all called widgets at the time, and what we now call apps were more skeuomorphic.
Safari is the missing link. The slide shows a similar design to the other core iPhone features. On the demo unit and shipping product, it takes on a look more similar to its dock-neighbor, Mail. Calendar is another interesting one. Its icon may have been as flat as possible for its time (How would you make a flatter, more essential calendar icon?). And look at the app itself. Not a scrap of torn paper to be found.
I don’t know if Ive’s design for iOS 7 will look anything like the images above, but it seems likely that whatever does appear has been on Ive’s mind at least some of the time since the iPhone’s introduction. So, even if the implementation is rushed, the final product will not be simply a result of a few months work; it could be descendent from the spirit of the original iPhone’s core design. Talk about making software true to itself.