Skeuomorphism in Digital Design
We explore how Skeuomorphism is used in digital products, to design visuals and sound effects that replicate their real world counterparts.
Skeuomorphism – a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? This term may not be a familiar one, but we guarantee that you will have heard or seen some examples of this widely used design technique.
Skeuomorphism is the process of taking a design function and using it to mimic something in the real world.
Take GarageBand for example, it uses digital guitars whose strings can be strummed or plucked on screen, to mimic playing the real thing. There are multiple advantages to using skeuomorphism in visual design: it makes the product more intuitive as the user can follow how the real world counterparts work whilst also being more tactile, engaging and visually appealing.
Skeumorphism in sound design is incredibly common nowadays – we probably hear sounds that use this technique so often that sometimes we forget they are there.
Companies can use skeumorphic sound design for a whole host of purposes, like to imitate key elements of their products. E-mail apps often use a swooshing sound as you press send, recreating the physical feeling of dropping your mail into the letterbox.
Sound designers can also use skeuomorphism to cause strong psychological associations with brands –
Skype uses an instantly recognisable array of sound effects created by recording bubbles underwater to resemble speech bubbles, and envelop a strong link with their iconic blue bubble-like logo.
Skeuomorphic sound can even invoke feelings that the product should give you – the Apple Mac power up sound is positive, calm and in a major key, setting up users for productivity by instantly feeling at ease.
Finally, digital products and modern technology often work away silently, giving no indication of any processes that are occurring inside. With digital, we no longer hear whirring machinery or cogs turning. Filling the silence trailing behind the decline of analogue machinery with skeuomorphic sounds reminds the user that things are still happening. From phone cameras making a shutter sound, to texting replicating the sound of a typewriter – this all helps to recreate the bustle of activity previously heard by machinery, and maybe even avoid disconnect that technology can cause.
The next time you use technology, try spotting some skeuomorphic design techniques in action, and see what you make of them!