Skeuomorphism. Love It. Hate It.

userpic=father-and-sonA big word in design circles these days is Skeuomorphism. Those who design interfaces are gnashing teeth and bemoaning the skeuomorphism in today’s interfaces, and newer interfaces are supposedly going to eschew it entirely. What is skeuomorphism? According to Wikipedia, it is when “a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique.” In other words, it is when an application used to delete files looks like a trashcan, an icon indicating saving files looks like a floppy disk, directories look like folders, email looks like envelopes, and (in general) thinks look like their archaic real world equivalents. Apple is supposedly going to a flat design and dropping skeuomorphic icons in the next version of iOS, and Windows has already started to do it in the flat design of Windows 8.

What got me thinking about skeuomorphism was a segment of this week’s Science Friday that we listened to on the drive home. This segment talked about helping seniors to tackle new technology. It talked about how seniors could be introduced to use the iPad and the iPhone, how to teach them to use computers, how they can be set in their habits… and how one can teach new technology by relating it to older things they know.

Yup. You can put 2 and 2 together as well as I can. The move away from skeuomorphism could be an attempt to get seniors — or at least less adaptable seniors — off the new technology. If you are dealing with a senior who can’t even figure out the power button, delete files, or do any simple tasks… now try imagine explaining it when the icon to do the task is something they don’t recognize.

So what are your thoughts? Is moving away from skeuomorphic design a good idea or a bad idea? What will be its impact on seniors?


Clearin’ O’ The Links: Maps, Fuel Efficiency, Trailer Parks, and Tattoos

userpic=observationsWell, it’s Saturday at lunchtime and you know what that means… time to clear out the interesting bookmarks that didn’t quite fit into any theme during the week:

  • Where Did He Go, George? One of the most interesting maps in one of my highway books looks at people’s perceptions of one-hour away, two-hours away, etc. from their home in terms of transit times. Especially interesting was how it changed over time. NPR has published a similar map: this time, looking at the travel times and distances of one-dollar bills, courtesy of “Where’s George?”  What’s fascinating about this is it shows — at least with cash — who we do business with and who they do business with. It is interesting how it clumps the country into various business regions. The article also includes a similar map for phone connections.
  • Improving Flight Efficiency. We’re all worried about miles per gallon. My car, on the highway, gets about 33 and I’m happy. What would you think if you had a vehicle that got ½ mile per gallon, and you had a technology that got it to ¾ mpg. You would think: gee, I’m in the airplane industry, because that’s what commercial jets get. BTW, that’s a good number when you convert it to passenger miles per gallon, just like when you deal with accident statistics for aircraft. In any case, National Geographic has a really interesting article on incoming technologies that would increase fuel efficiencies in aircraft. It will be interesting to see if any of these come to fruition, but I’m betting something will. The game of increasing fares has some natural limit before the traveling public rebels — the only answer to ensure profitability is to reduce costs, and a primary culprit is fuel.
  • The Great American Trailer Park. Recently, I’ve been dealing with a senior who we’ve just convinced to move into senior living. After only a few weeks, we’re already seeing an improvement in her attitude and demeanor. Close communities are important for the elderly. But not all seniors want to go into senior apartments — they need to be in a community, but also fiercely want their independence. Pacific Standard has an interesting article on one such solution: Trailer Parks for the Elderly. It profiles a trailer park in Pismo Beach that has become a thriving senior community where everyone looks after everyone else. It explores the problems with trailer park living, but also explores the benefits in an interesting manner.
  • Inking the Deal. Shortly after our daughter turned 18, she got a tattoo. We weren’t that enthused about it, although we understand why she got the tattoo that she did (in memory of our dear friend Lauren U, who was like a second mother to her). President Obama has a similar problem: his daughters are interested in tattoos. His solution:  “What we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decide you’re going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo. In the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo.” It is certainly one way to slow down the impulse. So, Erin, if you are reading this…. should we make the same deal?

P.S.: If you’re in the San Fernando Valley tonight and like wine… (and are not going to the REP fundraiser (tickets))… there will be a Wine Tasting at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge at 7:00pm. $40 at the door, if space is available ($20 non-drinkers).

Music: Songs of Peacemakers, Protestors and Potheads (The Yardbirds): “Shapes Of Things”