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Ghosts of tech's past

The simplest fact of life is that it is hard to let go of the things we were used to.

This is particularly true in design. in an ever changing world where technology is evolving day by day, we need some familiar component to help us cope with this fluctuation in trend. This is where SKEUOMORPHISM comes into play.

The word was coined in 1889 by Henry Colley March, an amateur archaeologist, combining the Greek skeuos, which means container with morphe meaning shape, hence, skeuomorph meaning "the container of a shape" or more correctly, irs derivation.

It basically is the phenomena where the object or function which replaces an older counterpart but uses some aspects of its older self for representation.


Floppy disk is being used as the save icon in almost all apps as the save icon even though the disk itself has become obsolete for almost 20 years. In fact, we can say with total confidence that almost everyone who reads this blog does not remember how a floppy felt in your hands, it's texture or even how the other side of it looked like.

We all know the Rewind icon from media players/ audio and video streaming services etc. But when was the last time you have actually used this button?

It is estimated that less than 40 percent of the total world population have ever used the button in real life. This was a made up number. But you get the idea ;)

Almost all of the icons used in a typical mobile interface comes from the physical appearence of their individual predecessor. A great example is the call/ Phone icon which we use everyday (well, atleast some of us).

The flashlight icon comes from the maglite heavy duty flashlight which was, to be honest, more fun to use. The weight and density of the actual flashlight gave you that feeling. the feeling that you are CARRYING illumination. A feeling we seldom get these days.

The message icon, as we all know, comes from the design of an envelope. Its folds, creases and flap.

As students we have all opened a thousand tabs at the same time, keeping it in the browser and seemingly forgetting about the very useful Bookmark feature.

Just bookmark your tabs, people.

The icon traces its origin to the ribbon bookmarks used in old hardbound books.

the battery icon is pretty straightforward. However, for an icon we see in our peripheral vision for 90 percent of the day, we often forget its origin, much like the next two on the list...

The search icon and...

The folder icon. Two objects which we rarely use, yet are SO familiar with, in terms of appearence.

Most of the tools used in graphic design use logos straight out of their real world counterparts. the pen icon, brush icon, eraser icon etc.

But did you know that the crop icon comes from the apparatus used in manually cutting/ cropping of photographs.


Interfaces use skeuomorphism inorder to create a familiar atmosphere for users who were new to these alternate technologies. These trends are still persistent even though the new tech has been around for decades.



Neumorphism is the next stage in skeuomorphic design trend.

Here, the already existing skeuommorphic trends are modernised to cater to this new generation of users who came in, post transition.

Neumorphic icons

Old and new iOS icons for the Contacts and Camera app.

Apps themselves have changed their logos to follow this trend. Interesting examples are Instagram and Amazon logos,

Old and new logos for Instagram.

Google has updated it's entire suite to be minimal representation of it's older icon set.

Neumorphic Interfaces

Neumorphistic design is not just limited to icons and logos. they can be also applicable for interfaces.

Shown above are how the calculator and calendar apps have evolved their interfaces in recent times.

In a nutshell, Neumorphism is a way to pay homage to the original design/ Inspiration by making it sleeker/ futuristic.


A peek into history

To give a bit of comparison and historical context, here are examples of how skeuomorphism and neumorphism were used in history.

Ancient examples for skeuomorphism persists in greek architecture.

Greek temples were initially made primarily of wood. And the structural system used in timber construction are vastly different from thst used in masonry/ stone construction.

One key example which is recurrent is the triglyph/ metope elements.

These were important structural elements in wooden construction used to support the triangular tympanum enclosed within the pediment.

Yet, their likeness was used in stone construction as a decorative element.

Hence functional elements got converted to decorative elements

In architecture though, it is more subtle and abstract. it focuses mainly on the intangible feeling that the building communicates with the user.

For example, The Oriental Milwaukee Art Museum, to some extent, abstracts the intangible of flight or the feeling of rising up into its users. But at the same time, it is not just a building built like a bird.

The main concept of Skeuomorphism in architecture can be dumbed down using this one example :

Everyone wants to feel the rush of rising into the air but no one would want to be inside a bird

So, next time you update your phone or reinstall an app, keep an eye out for these small changes. The changes which are designed to help us modern apes cope with the astronomical changes happening around us everyday.

Hope you had a good time reading this blog and also had the chance to learn something new :)

PS: if you wanna learn about the principles of icon design : This link is very useful


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