When Apple unveiled that the look of iOS7 would be considerably flatter, the software giant effectively closed the lid on the flat design vs. skeuomorphism discussion. Of course, iOS7’s icons are still slightly skeuomorphic (some gradients remain), but the trend is clearly toward slimming down in a dramatic fashion, and ditching all that faux leather.

Skeuomorphism refers to any “derivative object” that employs ornamental design cues which refer to attributes that were necessary in “the original”. For example, a notepad app makes its pages look grainy to resemble real paper pages, which are grainy by necessity because they are produced from wood pulp. In practice, though, the word skeuomorphism is used more generally to refer to any digital interface elements that are made to resemble physical objects in the real world, complete with texture, shadow and apparent depth.

The prevailing argument against skeuomorphism is that it is gaudy and self-indulgent, prizing the look of the user interface itself above the content that the interface was designed to communicate.


The argument for skeumorphism is that:

  1. It intuitively guides the user (a raised-looking button communicates “you can click this” whereas a flat rectangle in space might not).
  2. It provokes a positive emotional response by echoing the look and feel of the real world, as opposed to the colder, more “impersonal” feel of cyberspace.
  3. By introducing more complexity to an interface, it helps distinguish one product from similar ones (“my weather app is the one with the bursting glass thermometer icon”).

There’s also a fourth reason: the extreme, over-the-top ornate and naturalistic specimens of skeumorphism are amazing to look at. Designing digital things to look like physical things is an art — definitely a kitschy art (skeuomorphic icons are basically the 21st century equivalent of a Thomas McKnight painting) — but an art nonetheless.

In the name of not closing the lid on skeuomorphism just quite yet, here are 25 truly “lickable” examples:

1. Timezone dashboard

skeuomorphism 11

2. Simple

skeuomorphism 8

3. iBooks


4. Skyview app


skeuomorphism 18

5. East African Factory


6. Digital clock

skeuomorphism 7

7. Folder box icon


8. fff.





skeuomorphism 12


skeuomorphism 15


skeuomorphism 20




skeuomorphism 6
skeuomorphism 14


skeuomorphism 16


skeuomorphism 17


skeuomorphism 13


skeuomorphism 9


skeuomorphism 10


skeuomorphism 19


Where do you fall in the “skeuomorphic vs. flat design” debate?

Related articles:
Apple’s iOS7 tells designers to adapt or fall behind
7 user interface design trends you need to know about
15 tutorials in icon, badge and button design
This is what graphic design will look like in 2033