Home / iMac / Apple’s macOS Gets a Cool ‘Neu’ Design (But What Is It, Exactly?)

Apple’s macOS Gets a Cool ‘Neu’ Design (But What Is It, Exactly?)

macOS Big Sur Hero Credit: Apple

What Is Skeuomorphism?

Before we can get into neumorphism, we need to revisit its predecessor, skeuomorphism. Apple was known as the king of skeuomorphism, a design principle where the components in the user interface resemble real-life objects. The trash can icon is a prime example of skeuomorphic design. People right away know that you “throw away” your unwanted files in the trash.

Flat Design Comes Full Circle

Apple did away with skeuomorphism in iOS 7, adopting a flat UI that turned heads when it was first introduced. Now the company is going full circle, reviving skeuomorphism in a new way. This “neumorphism” takes the best of skeuomorphism and implements it in a new way. It’s rearing its ugly head in macOS 11 Big Sur and may be the way Apple heads for its next versions of iOS.

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Neumorphism Defined

Neumorphism takes the best of skeuomorphism and mixes it with flat design. It offers a clean interface with pale colors like white, beige, and soft gray. It uses subtle shadowing and highlights to give the elements a natural-looking 3D texture. It gives the appearance that a UI component, like a button, is a solid object that is pushing up through a superficial skin.

macOS Big Sur Neumorphism
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“Neu” Look in macOS Big Sur

The presence of neumorphism in macOS is subtle. People point to the mild gradients, soft shadows, and translucency used in macOS UI elements. Early previews of iOS 14 suggest this idea of neumorphism has not yet taken hold in Apple’s mobile operating system.

Some people predict Apple is headed down this path, while others think the idea of neumorphism is a passing fad. What do you think about this new design ethos of neumorphism? Is this a design Apple should adopt? Or is it best left as a concept?

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