Short answer: because Apple set a fashion trend.
Before iOS 7
The world before iOS 7 was pseudo 3D. It was fun.
- First our displays had 256 colors, then 64 thousand, then 16 million
- We had UI conventions: actionable elements with pseudo-3D, such as push buttons, drop-downs, and even inputs.
Please note all the ways actionable controls can be made to look 3D: the inner shadow on input controls and even a slight glass border around color boxes.
- We had some of the most beautiful isomorphic icons ever created; there was a fashion of drawing objects squarish in the shape of iOS icons.
My team mate Alexander created it in the late 2000s. Look what kind of flowers he was drawing just few years ago.
After iOS 7
- What is clickable?
- What is not?
- Icons got rid of the detail and became simpler. They became more recognizable.
People ask us to draw logos in the format of icons. Sometimes we have to do some work, but mostly the original logos are fine. We just make sure they’re as pixel perfect as possible, then we call it a day.
- Icon designers saved years of their lives by drawing simpler app icons. Therefore, Apple saved years of icon designer’s lives.
Uses in Various Media
The process of simplifying graphics is partially due to the variety of available media: TV, computer screens, ORACAL vinyls, LED lights, and even tattoos:
Please note that even the full Facebook (company) logo, as simple as it is, doesn’t fit the thumb. You’ll need to use the shortened F-logo.
Metro-inspired design: Eduardo Santos certainly did a better job than Microsoft.
Shift Toward Vectors
- Keep 2-3 versions for various pixel densities
- Or use vectors
Although vectors can drop shadows and show few different simple effects, this set of effects is super limited; Photoshop 3 had more. I wish we move toward something like this:
Thanks for the hint, btw!
About the Author
Ivan Boyko is a founder of Icons8. He got his first job after drawing a banner with CTR of 43%. After years of creating icons, he specializes in rapid prototyping and backlog grooming.