Following the launch of our signature hardware design language, we are now thrilled to introduce a UI concept that goes hand in hand with it. We firmly believe that the best hardware and software are designed together, to truly complement one another and make the most out of the capabilities of each.
AT THE CROSSROADS OF DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
At Ixonos we constantly dream, design and deliver the best services and solutions for our clients around the globe, working at the crossroads of design and technology, interlacing end user desires and business requirements. Because we work with customers on THEIR products, few “outsiders” get to see what it is we can actually do. We created this UI concept, in order to show our OWN design thinking in action and pay respect to the millions of end users out there who clearly expect more from user interfaces.
WHAT’S OUT THERE NOW
In our everyday work, we constantly analyse design trends and the different UI solutions on the markets. We feel that most user interfaces are a compromise at best. It is amazing how stagnant the visual quality of current mobile and tablet UI designs is, given how much display quality has improved over the last years.
Pure stock Android UI is structurally simple with flat information architecture, but lacks visual quality. Black background and thin lines leave room for content, but looks a bit dull, as if engineered for an engineer. They are clearly influenced by the open source nature and Google’s data driven design guidance.
Android-based UI skins or themes, on the other hand, draw influence heavily from core OS UIs, but also tend to fall into the trap of poor visual quality. They’re also too similar to other designs already out there. Dark background, almost neon-coloured support colours and confusing layouts make the UI seem more crowded than it actually is.
Windows Phone 7/8 has a distinctive look, we grant that. But those tiles waste a tremendous amount of prime screen estate and the UI overall has a very strong western bias. Showing only a part of the application name isn’t suitable for character-based typography. And again, the background is black. We’re fully aware of the reasoning behind opting for a dark background colour; it can save up to 20% battery life, if the power management optimization isn’t otherwise top-notch. But boy, what a buzz-kill that dark colour scheme is, for me at least.
ENTER INTO THE LIGHT
So, for our own concept design, I asked our design team to dream up a user interface that focuses on layout balance, colours, freshness and the highest quality in terms of visual pleasantness. It was important for us to find a balance between Western and Eastern visual design worlds. Think of it as Scandinavian minimalist design meets Asian tactile design.
There has been a huge debate recently in the media and especially among designers around the globe over skeuomorphic (natural looking UI imitating real life objects) and flat design (ultra-simplistic purely 2D UI). The more design-minded a person is, the more he seems to favour minimal aesthetic representations. Apple poured gasoline into the flames by introducing iOS7 and ditching some of their familiar skeuomorphic elements. This was declared as a victory for flat design and brought about a growing trend.
We dare to challenge the trend. Our analysis, based on studying end users from different cultures, operators, and device manufacturers, gave us the confidence to argue that the world of user interfaces doesn’t have to be strictly divided. We believe that skeuomorphic and flat design can and should co-exist in the user interface, so long as it is applied with the most careful consideration to achieve visual balance.
Having real life imitating objects in a user interface is not a bad thing as such. Think of a page turning effect; it is not disturbing, it is subtle visualization of centuries old animation our brains recognize. Whereas creating fake leather surfaces and stitching lacks useful associations for our brain, familiar qualities of paper bring about instant associations that can be useful in terms of guiding to action. So, we feel that done correctly, with impeccable taste and careful consideration, skeuomorphic elements can be used to increase the pleasantness and visual balance of a UI.
Flat design has the ability to make things on the screen appear orderly and leave room for the content. These are very good qualities. But flat design should not become too dominant a factor, since it can easily push the visual quality back 10 years. Flat design is a good way forward when the above-mentioned goals are held in mind and it doesn’t become a goal in itself. The world is not flat and neither should the world’s best user interface designs be.
COMBINING THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS
Setting out to create our UI concept, our design team toyed with a variety of options in terms of structure and visual direction. It soon became clear that we want to veer away from anything fake and cheesy. Our design must feel authentic. Coming up with this term as guidance, we knew we were on the right track.
We believe that colours are the spice of life. They make items we see, touch, and value have an emotional connection in our minds. This is visible design creating invisible value for end users. We felt we needed to keep the UI light. We also wanted to offer the sensation of instant recognition: with a 0.5 second glance at the UI your brain already knows the elements in it. We always want to respect the wishes from end users, so we set out create a fun and inviting UI, not something that looks like a list of functions or feels like a tool. Granted, business users need their tools. But for them also a light visual representation can actually increase efficiency and make work…a little more fun.
Finally, as a result of months of observation on design, end user desires and industry trends as well as a number of iterations and intense brainstorming, we came up with a unique signature design language of our own. It consists of carefully crafted elements that fuse skeuomorphic and flat design in a fresh and uncluttered way. It optimizes screen layouts and ensures simple interaction flow.
The introduction of iOS7 was a great day for us. The world leader in mobile design showed that it shares the same design thinking and expression as us. We are not Apple, but yet again, Apple is not Ixonos Design. They must have considered feedback from China Mobile and other important APAC partners not to make design too serious. They did a good job, but we feel we did better.
So we have a design language for a killer UI that is fresh, appealing, easy to use and seriously calling out for busy hands to start fiddling with it. Now what? Can you get your hands on it? Not yet. Our goal was to show our forward-thinking ability to design the best user interfaces ahead of their time. Next we will show a more polished version of our hardware design language for smartphones and tablets. After that, we will introduce the updated UI language.
Want to know more? Contact Sami Paihonen, SVP, Ixonos Design +1 (408) 620 0030 email@example.com