Look at the Photo, Not the Frame
I work with an extremely talented design team, all of whom are unhappy with iOS 7’s new design direction. While I agree there are some rough edges, overall I think the changes will ultimately be for the best, as designers and developers (including Apple’s own) learn to work with the new concepts and design language.
Good “pixel design” is, of course, very important; it has been one of the main ways to provide the “user delight” that designers strive for ever since the first GUI. Very few companies outside of tired examples like Google and Craigslist can even attract users without good design to help sell the product. But computers are now powerful enough to provide that same sense of delight in other ways, one of which is the use of motion, which provides visual interest and context without drawing attention away from the content. iOS 7 utilizes motion in almost every interaction; the parallax effects throughout the system, elastic trays, and home screen icon zooming just scratch the surface.
As I type this into Vesper, I’m struck by just how much care has gone into what is truly “as little design as possible”. Subtle, well-considered animation and gorgeous typography help create the same sense of wonder that the most ornamental apps inspire on first load, but instead of just being nice to look at, they also improve the actual usage of the application. Every decision that the Q Branch team made serves to make writing more enjoyable; all the design is in service of helping me actually write words on the page. The true soul of every application is its user experience.
Until iOS 7, app design on iOS had been becoming progressively more complex and ornamental; nearly fetishistic. The sudden turnaround isn’t a rejection of beautiful design, it’s a return to caring more about the photograph than the frame.