Design awareness versus iOS 7

How our overall education on how a phone should feel is at odds with a totally new iPhone experience.

Credit: Image via (originally) Los Angeles Times

The iPhone 5c and 5s arrive in retail outlets and phone stores today, and with it, the truly public debut of iOS 7. Apple's new mobile operating system has an entirely overhauled look and feel, for perhaps the first time in the iPhone's short but rich history. And people are, well, kind of making a thing of it. There is an entire Tumblr full of "sloppy" iOS 7 elements, some "give it a few days" pushback, and many words spilled in the median.

Two things you might keep in mind as you or someone you love drag their heels through an iOS 7 upgrade. One is that, again, this really is the first major overhaul of iOS. Apple has added and taken out features, and literally dressed up some parts of the system with leather, linen, and new lighting before. But this is perhaps what you might call an entirely new environment for your mobile life, where every look, feel, and feature was reconsidered.

The other is that the public that is viewing and buying this iPhone is a different public than existed in late June of 2007. The best explanation and allegory I can find for that comes from a very smart take on a different redesign: the University of California's attempt to redesign their logo in 2012, beautifully reported and explained by _99% Invisible.

The University ("UC") crafted a very modern logo (or monogram, actually) for use across their entire system: abstract symbolism, rounded corners, and even a bold gradient. As pointed out in this episode of the (simply great) 99% podcast, this logo was almost always going to arrive with other contextual elements: text, university names, and further color-schemed web or printed page elements. The roll-out was poisoned, too, from media reporting that made it seem the school's logo was replacing its seal (as pictured above).

But to me, what most speaks to how iOS 7 has encountered relatively sustained criticism, specifically on its look and feel and attention to detail, is this preface note by 99% host Roman Mars:

Design awareness is at an all time high ... People have cottoned onto the idea that their interaction with the built world, and their hidden communication with the people who designed it, really matters. It's really important. And like I said, this usually works out--pretty well. But sometimes, it's a f***ing trainwreck.

Listen to the related episode, The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo, in full, to hear all the connections. As with the UC logo, there are definitely legitimate design choices made across iOS 7 that can be critiqued, and in fairly objective fashion. But as for the volume and tone of many reactions, I will say that the clash between a burgeoning public design awareness and a totally new and untested design makes a lot of sense.

You hold, view, touch, and trade messages with your phone or tablet every day, and you know what it feels like when there is harmony between details. How long it takes to pull up a contact to send a text message, and the route your fingers take to get there—you will have an opinion on this, based on history, feel, and expectations.

Anyways. Give iOS 7 a few days, folks, and be glad we're having this discussion.

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