from Marketing Memetics, by Michael Taylor
Every time we invent new technology, memes carry over from the old way of working. The icon for saving your work in Microsoft Office is a floppy disk, despite falling out of use in the 1990s. The camera on an iPhone still makes a ‘click’ sound when taking a picture, despite there being no mechanical shutter. Electric cars still have prominent front grilles, despite there being no internal combustion engine to cool. The technical term for incorporating old, familiar ideas into new technologies despite no longer being necessary is ‘Skeumorphism’.
Skeumorphs act to educate users on what an object does based on its appearance. Early cars were marketed as ‘horseless carriages’. The trash icon on computers is shaped as an actual trash can. The swipe function on smartphones echoes turning a page. Mapping past experience to new technology can speed up adoption of the unfamiliar. Older generations prefer Skeumorphic designs, but they provide no value to newer generations, unfamiliar with the original technology being emulated. There is danger in not accurately representing the underlying system, and creativity can be artificially limited by mimicking the past.
As our familiarity increases, Skeumorphism gives way to flat design, de-cluttering old memes and fully utilising the new medium. Apple mostly abandoned Skeumorphic design in iOS7, ripping out faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, and fake paper. However memes from the past live on for stylistic or cultural reasons. Ancient Greek stone temples kept features from their wooden forebears. North American pottery resembled the woven baskets that predated ceramics. Apple Watches still have analog clock faces.
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