The era of Scott Forstall’s green felt poker table and leather-bound yellow notepad has now passed and is fading into the rear view mirror. Long live Jony Ive’s glass palace of translucence or Google’s Material Design pack of cards, as you see fit.
Skeuomorphism has become marginalised in the context of visual design, yet it’s a term that’s rarely considered applicable to audio, even if the conversation ever comes to discussing sound design qualities.
At last year’s Evernote EC4 conference, the company announced a slew of new features, including a new presentation feature, that took aim at productivity softwares’ use of skeuomorphic terminology for features, such as slides for a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
This is a step away from the reliance on the physical to inspire digital products, but where’s the equivalent for audio?
Audio skeuomorphism is still apparent in apps and interfaces, and iOS is still littered with examples in spite of the recent visual changes in iOS 7 and 8.
Deep integration with Twitter was introduced in iOS 5 and a successfully posted tweet was accompanied by a bird whistle. This was back in 2011 and to this day it’s still the default sound despite having been relegated to the Classic sub-menu within sound settings.
This trend is perpetuated in the swoosh of an email being sent and the clacking of the keyboard, too.
Digital interfaces have the potential to utilise sound and audio in new ways. Feedback and interaction can be expressed through sounds that are inspired by the design that it accompanies, rather than replications of physical objects.
If we are to fully discuss skeuomorphism and flat design in apps and interfaces then audio has to be included as part of the conversation rather than seeing it as disparate or an ornamental afterthought. A beautifully designed flat interface will forever remain rooted in and reliant on the physical if coupled with sounds of the physical counterpart that inspired it.