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🥶 Cool Take

When we lost visual richness in software, we lost a requirement to think about design with regards to how it looks. Everyone loved to parrot Steve Jobs’ famous quote “Design is how it works,” but what he said was much more nuanced. ⤵️
“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

It’s important to recognize that a huge part of software design *is* a visual component. That’s not just making it look nice, that’s making sure that we visually communicate the UI successfully.
iOS 7 launched and there was both triumph and criticism. We lost what seemed like mere visual eye candy and people focused on *that*. I don’t even want to argue for “skeuomorphism.” That’s not the valuable part that we lost. We lost the significance of visual design.
But some people were excited that they could make software much more easily without hiring a designer while making it look just as good as apps that did have hire a designer. So the focus changed from making good apps to making more apps. Apple encouraged shifting to *more* apps.
Suddenly, the software industry redesigned everything for the new world. Companies focused on hiring what seemed important: experience designers who thought about the “whole picture,” not just how to make it look pretty. So naturally, everyone wanted to be an experience designer.
People think iOS 7 killed superfluous things like wood textures, but more seriously it downplayed visual design. We lost things like shadows and lighting. This stuff isn’t just a veneer. They are tools. They were used to indicate so many things like inactivity or focus.
In 2020, iPadOS doesn’t convey app focus in split-screen mode. But window focus was apparent *over 35 years ago* on the original Macintosh. It was only black and white! But today when we have millions of colors, we don’t indicate focus well.
Since 2013, our entire visual design toolbox has been reduced to only shape and color. Apple could use color to indicate focus. That’s almost all they have to use.

In the real world, we have so many indicators: color, shape, material, lighting, form, texture, weight.
We don’t have to use every tool in the toolbox for everything, but by reducing what we can use, we’re more limited in how we can communicate with design. We were duped into thinking that minimalism was the key to effective communication.

Less isn’t more. More is more.
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