Thursday, July 21, 2011

OSX Lion: First Day Thoughts

I downloaded and installed Lion yesterday. Mostly, I'm still acclimating before drawing judgements and throwing darts. But one thing stands out already.

There's this great story about how Steve Jobs convinced Bill Atkinson that rectangles with rounded corners were a good thing. The idea being that we as humans tend to prefer them and so would naturally prefer them in our UIs. The rest is history. Over the years, more and more of our UI elements get sanded off corners.

There is another pendulum that's been swinging along the Apple UI Design vector that annoys me. Color. Or lack thereof. It's no secret that Apple uses some of its frontline apps to feel out UI evolutions. Back in 2006, I remember discussing the latest iTunes version, and describing what I saw as an attempt on Apple's part to create "Lickable Motiff."

The first thing that keeps hitting me with the subtle changes made to Mail and Finder, are that they both seem to have been through another bleach cycle. Mails top button bar has had all hue rinsed from it. Finder's side bar is nearly colorless. I keep thinking "Those icons are just glyphs from some foreign language. Ignore them." Maybe I should just spend more time in Terminal and use good ol' ls.

I understand some of the influences that drive Apple designers to do this. It's easier to harmonize sets of icons if you use less colors. It helps deal with colorblindness issues. Etc.

On the other hand... I'd like to take the Apple UI designers on a walk around their campus. And point at things. And say "See? Color!" If we get rounded rectangles (problematic as they are to graphics libraries) because they show up in real life, why can't we have some color too?

Who knows, maybe everyone at Apple wears black turtlenecks now, and they all really see less color. Yeah, maybe that's it.

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