Lars Damgaard
strategic user experience designer
December 10th 2012

Reverse skeuomorphism: the case of our washing machine

2012 was the year when skeuomorphism became part of everyone’s vocabulary, mainly because of Apple’s much discussed visual interface of its calendar application that tries to imitate Steve Jobs’ preferred color of leather in his private jet and more generally tries to imitate analogous calendars. In general skeuomorphism is defined as:

A skeuomorph is a physical ornament or design on an object copied from a form of the object when made from another material or by other techniques. For example, pottery embellished with imitation rivets because the object was once made of metal, or a calendar application which displays the days organised on animated month pages in imitation of a paper wall calendar.

Wikipedia

However, it occurred to me that skeuomorphism is perhaps even more interesting when reversed as a way of transfering digital aspects to traditional analog objects. When we actually become so accquainted with digital environments that we begin to miss or expect digital abilities when dealing with analog objects.

For instance, when I operate our washing machine in the apartment, it always annoys me that I cannot see how much time is left. In the same way it annoys me that I cannot easily share articles from offline newspapers and magazines with my friends. Or the fact that I cannot perform a search in a book. Or the fact that listening to a CD doesn’t provide me with more music from the same artist or related artists like it would on Spotify.

As more and more things become digital, this might not be a persistent problem. After all, our next washing machine will probably have a progress bar of some kind and the books I buy in the future will be digital (and thus searchable). Newspapers and magazines are increasingly digital (and thus – to some extent – more sharable) and eventually my vast analog music collection will probably find a good spot in the attic because it cannot compete with the social and contextual user experience of Spotify.

Related to what you were just reading
December 26th 2012

Don’t use software for user experience design

When using a computer to build prototypes for user experience design, you are bound to loose yourself in a world of details. At least I often do.

Even though I use tools that are designed for rapid prototyping (whether it’s Axure,…

Read more