By Design is a brief weekly release on – did you guess correctly? – design. The columns go into UX and branding by means of news, resources, and my thoughts as a designer and writer. (My thoughts as a designer and writer are quite often complaints, but I promise to be constructive.)
Windows Wants its Live Tiles Back
This week, Apple previewed iOS 14 with a revamped Home Screen, updates to Messages, and much else. The marketing copy is full of passages such as ‘You’re able to do more with your iPhone than ever before,’ which in effect tell me nothing, but sound brilliant (like most of Apple’s writing).
Widgets now coexist with app icons on the Home Screen and have a new opaque look. They are information-rich, behave much like Windows’ Live Tiles – remember those? – and provide an overdue visual refresh while conforming to the utilitarian nature of iPhone.
It’s got Twitter raging that widgets don’t align to app icon edges, but this is in fact an optical correction to account for their rounder corners.
The Home Screen no longer houses all apps, that task having been handed over to the App Library – an index of installed apps that slides in from the right of the Home Screen. This interaction comes with two notable upsides:
- It eases the transition from iOS 13, where a good deal of users would reserve the left page or two for favourite apps and store everything less-used – including so-called ‘Apple rubbish’ – further right.
- Those off the grid can discover the App Library by means of swiping between Home Screen pages in pursuit of ‘missing’ apps.
Other additions include Picture in Picture, App Clips, and compact calls.
Redesigned the App Icons, Boss
The macOS Version Naming Division has meanwhile come to the startling discovery of numbers higher than 10 and named macOS Big Sur accordingly (namely, macOS 11). This release introduces a sweeping redesign.
Windows receive a much-needed makeover with rounder corners, blur effects, and cleaner, more spacious layouts. A redesigned Notification Centre includes widgets, Control Centre has made its way to Mac, and the Dock has a tinted top edge and a new shape. Which brings me, alas, to the bad news.
App icons are uniform and use an updated style that retains, as Apple puts it, ‘the lifelike rendering style typical of macOS icons.’ And where Messages or Preferences have received modern symbols with added depth, the Preview and TextEdit icons – to say nothing of many others – are unduly representational, making for a jarring inconsistency when viewed beside the aforementioned three. (More jarring still given the otherwise gorgeous interface.)
This is far below Apple’s standards, and that at no point in the design process did anyone upstairs exclaim ‘Now that is hideous’ doesn’t seem right to me.
Fancy Another Chat App?
Google on Thursday previewed a redesigned Photos with a refreshed product icon and a new three-tab layout for mobile. It rolls out over the next week.
Alongside a refined home page with larger thumbnails, a more prominent Memories carousel, and auto-playing videos, there are two new tabs:
- Search, which helps you find photos by people, pets, and places. A more comprehensive browsing toolset is always welcome.
- Library with destinations like Trash or Archive, local photos, and that obnoxious print store banner you only ever tap by accident.
The top bar houses the Photos word mark and two misaligned icons. Tap the bubble to chat with acquaintances – to text people from a gallery is all you’ve ever wanted – or switch Google accounts via the profile picture.
Finally, the familiar pinwheel is bolder and rounder, joining the Fit and Lens icons, among others, in its quad-colour appearance. It fits the bill just fine, so long as it isn’t adjacent to another symbol from the quad-colour family. (In which case, ironically enough, a somewhat chaotic colour dump forms.)