Flat design vs

realistic (“skeuomorphic”) design:

The bibliography


This is a list of academic articles, usability testing based publications and expert opinions evaluating flat (minimalistic) vs realistic (rich, “skeuomorphic”) design.


If you think that we missed something, please let us know!




Wu, Jianfeng; Jiao, Dongfang; Lu, Chunfu; Li, Chengmin; Huang, Xiaofang; Weng, Suzan (2022) How do older adults process icons in visual search tasks? The combined effects of icon type and cognitive aging, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (8), 4525 | Link | PDF

“In terms of icon types, all older adults performed better at searching for the combinations of icon and text, especially skeuomorphic icon + text. All older adults performed poorly when searching for flat icons.


Yu, Na; Ouyang, Ziwei; Wang, Hehe; Tao, Da; Jing, Liang (2022) The effects of smart home interface touch button design features on performance among young and senior users, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (4), 2391 | Link | PDF

“In light of the results of this study, a rounded square button with <…> skeuomorphic icons should be used in the design of functional buttons to appeal to a broader range of users.


Kubincová, Magdaléna; Ingesson, Eveline (2021) “They don’t look real; they are not nice”: Skeuomorphic vs. flat design icons – Ease of use, recognition and preference of children aged 7-9: Bachelor thesis, Jönköping University | Link | PDF

“Although our results did not find a statistically significant difference in the ease of use or recognition for this age group, we found that the children had a strong preference towards the skeuomorphic design.


Urbano, Inês Cunha Vaz Pereira; Guerreiro, João Pedro Vieira; Nicolau, Hugo Miguel Aleixo Albuquerque (2020) From skeuomorphism to flat design: age-related differences in performance and aesthetic perceptions, Behaviour & Information Technology | DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2020.1814867 | PDF

“In this paper, we examine the performance and aesthetic perception of older (65–77 years old) and younger (20–40) adults with three design approaches: skeuomorph, skeuominimalist, and flat design. Results show flat design is either slower or less accurate than traditional skeuomorph interfaces for older adults across three tasks: visual search, identifying clickable objects, and multiple page navigation. Younger adults were less susceptible to performance differences between design approaches, but still subject to ‘click uncertainty’ with flat interfaces. Skeuominimalism did not show clear performance benefits over flat design or skeuomorphism, while the latter reduced the performance gap between age groups. Finally, younger adults preferred the simplicity of skeuominimalism, while older adults preferred skeuomorph interfaces because of the perceived usability, beauty, and trustiness.


Jin, Huifeng (2020) Influence of icon design style on user’s cognition, in: Du, Xuemei; Huang, Chunyan; Zhong, Yulin (Eds.) Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Humanities and Social Science Research (ICHSSR 2020), Paris: Atlantis Press, 550-553 (Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 435) | DOI: 10.2991/assehr.k.200428.118 | PDF

The skeuomorphism design style is better in readability and accuracy of users’ cognition, and the flat design style is better in the efficiency of users’ cognition.”


Chen, Ruoyu; Huang, Jincheng; Zhou, Jia (2020) Skeuomorphic or flat icons for an efficient visual search by younger and older adults?, Applied Ergonomics, 85, 103073 | DOI: 10.1016/j.apergo.2020.103073 | PDF

Younger participants could use the skeuomorphic icons more efficiently than they could use the flat icons and that they had an advantage over older participants in terms of this ability; however, aesthetically they appreciated flat icons more. In contrast, older participants searched skeuomorphic icons more quickly and accurately than they did flat icons, and aesthetically they appreciated skeuomorphic icons more.”


Backhaus, Nils; Trapp, Anna Katharina; Thüring, Manfred (2018) Skeuomorph versus flat design: User experience and age-related preferences, in: Marcus, Aaron; Wang, Wentao (Eds.) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Designing Interactions: 7th International Conference, DUXU 2018, Held as Part of HCI International 2018 (Las Vegas, NV, USA, July 15-20, 2018): Proceedings, Part II (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 10919), Cham: Springer, 527-542 | DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-91803-7_40 | PDF | Presentation

Elderly users showed a preference for skeuomorph design whereas the younger generation favored the flat design.”


Spiliotopoulos, Konstantinos; Rigou, Maria; Sirmakessis, Spiros (2018) A comparative study of skeuomorphic and flat design from a UX perspective, Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, 2 (2), 31 | DOI: 10.3390/mti2020031 | PDF

The paper poses the question whether users perceive an overall flat design as more aesthetically attractive or more usable than a skeuomorphic equivalent. All tested hypotheses regarding potential effect of design approach on icon recognizability, task completion time, or number of errors were rejected but users perceived flat design as more usable. The last issue considered was how users respond to functionally equivalent flat and skeuomorphic variations of websites when given specific tasks to execute. Most tested hypotheses that website design affects task completion durations, user expected and experienced difficulty, or SUS (System Usability Scale) and meCUE questionnaires scores were rejected but there was a correlation between skeuomorphic design and increased experienced difficulty, as well as design type and SUS scores but not in both websites examined.”


Oswald, David (2018) Affordances and metaphors revisited: Testing flat vs. skeuomorph design with digital natives and digital immigrants, in: Proceedings of the 32nd International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI 2018) (Belfast, UK, 4-6 July 2018), 11 p. | DOI: 10.14236/ewic/HCI2018.57 | PDF | Video

“Older and inexperienced users experienced more problems using “naturalistic” skeuomorph interfaces than abstract flat interfaces. As a result, the concept of skeuomorph design enabling the use of real-world knowledge to enhance novice user’s learnability is cast into doubt.


Urbano, Inês Cunha Vaz Pereira (2018) From Skeuomorphism to Flat Design: Investigating Older Adults Experience, MSc Thesis, Lisboa: Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, XVI+88 p. | Link | PDF

This dissertation investigated the effect of age and other individual characteristics (related to familiarization with technology) and their interaction with the design approaches (skeuomorphic, flat and material). We concluded that both age and design have effects in both performance and aesthetic perception in the tasks involved. Older Adults (65+ years) were the ones where performance depended more on design. Aesthetic preference was also influenced by age: while younger adults perceived minimalistic designs as more aesthetically appealing, the older groups drew a more positive opinion towards a more detailed one. These findings helped to create a set of user guidelines that vary according to the target age and to which is the goal of the designer (enhance efficiency, effectiveness or aesthetic preference).”


Nordling, Filip; Wiklund, Josef (2017) Platt fall – ur användarens perspektiv: En kvalitativ studie om minimalism och skeuomorfism med fokus på UI/UX, Student thesis, Trollhättan: University West, 39 p. (Swedish, abstract in English) | Link

The majority of users, by a rather large margin, perceives skeuomorphism as the most modern and most usable design style <...> Skeuomorphism creates a kind of clarity for the application, which is more so appreciated by the user when navigating an application than aesthetically appealing elements of design.”


Bollini, Letizia (2017) Beautiful interfaces. From user experience to user interface design, The Design Journal, 20 (sup1), S89-S101 | DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2017.1352649 | PDF

Brutalism as a natural result of flat design evolution.


Meyer, Kate (2017) Flat UI elements attract less attention and cause uncertainty | Link

“Flat interfaces often use weak signifiers. In an eyetracking experiment comparing different kinds of clickability clues, UIs with weak signifiers required more user effort than strong ones.


Meyer, Kate (2017) Flat-design best practices | Link

Strategies to make sure users don’t become victims of a faulty flat design.


Zhang, Xiaoming; Wang, Qiang; Shi, Yan (2017) Contrastive analysis on emotional cognition of skeuomorphic and flat icon, in: Zhao, Pengfei; Ouyang, Yun; Xu, Min; Yang, Li, Ouyang, Yujie (Eds.) Advanced Graphic Communications and Media Technologies, Singapore: Springer, 225-232 (Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, 417) | DOI: 10.1007/978-981-10-3530-2_28 | PDF

“Experimental data analysis of the results shows that skeuomorphic icons have higher identification accuracy and faster efficiency than flat icons. The cognition validity of flat icons is lower than skeuomorphic ones. Users like both forms of icons, but skeuomorphic icon seem to be in advantage.”


Bollini, Letizia (2016) From skeuomorphism to material design and back. The language of colours in the 2nd generation of mobile interface design, in: Gadia, Davide (Ed.) Colour and Colorimetry. Multidisciplinary Contributions, Vol. XII B: Proceedings of the 12th Conferenza del Colore (Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy, September 08-09, 2016), Milano: Gruppo del Colore – Associazione Italiana Colore, 309-320 | PDF

An analysis of controversial semiotics of color in “flat” versions of iOS, Android and Windows.


Creager, James H.; Gillan, Douglas J. (2016) Toward understanding the findability and discoverability of shading gradients in almost-flat design, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 60 (1), 339-343 | DOI: 10.1177/1541931213601077 | PDF

“This study demonstrates there are potential usability benefits to using luminance gradients amidst otherwise flat design in software interfaces. The process of visual search can be made quick and easy when a key element is distinguished by a convex or concave cue. <…> Results advocate a hybrid approach between realism and flat design.”


Shahid, Suleman; Voort, Jip ter; Somers, Maarten; Mansour, Inti (2016) Skeuomorphic, flat or material design: Requirements for designing mobile planning applications for students with autism spectrum disorder, in: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct (MobileHCI ’16), New York: ACM, 738-745 | DOI: 10.1145/2957265.2961866 | PDF

Authors designed three versions (flat design, material design and skeuomorphic design) of the same app for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although no significant difference was found between three designs, the material design was largely preferred over other two designs.


Isaković, Maša; Sedlar, Urban; Volk, Mojca; Bešter, Janez (2016) Usability pitfalls of diabetes mHealth apps for the elderly, Journal of Diabetes Research, 2016, Article ID 1604609 | DOI: 10.1155/2016/1604609 | PDF

Flat design of mHealth app for elderly users caused usability problems like difficulties in differentiating between a button and an image or text.


Meyer, Kate (2016) Young adults appreciate flat design more than their parents do | Link

“18-to-25-year olds rated flat UIs as slightly more attractive than older adults did. That increased aesthetic appeal may not be worth the usability costs of flat design.”


Gu, Baotong; Yu, Meng (2016) East meets West on flat design: Convergence and divergence in Chinese and American user interface design, Technical Communication, 63 (3), 231-247 | Link | PDF

“Our analysis indicates that while flat design is the new trend, skeuomorphism has its place in UI design; each design has its advantages and shortcomings; and effective design may require the integration of both approaches. Our study also reveals that designs are culturally sensitive and that each particular design is contextualized and rhetorical. Flat design's popularity in the Chinese context has its unique rationale due to social, ideological, cultural, and linguistic reasons.”


Kreps, David; Burmeister, Oliver K.; Blaynee, Jessica (2016) Skeuomorphic reassurance: Personhood and dementia, in: Kreps, David; Fletcher, Gordon; Griffiths, Marie (Eds.) Technology and Intimacy: Choice or Coercion: 12th IFIP TC 9 International Conference on Human Choice and Computers, HCC12 2016 (Salford, UK, September 7-9, 2016): Proceedings (IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, 474), Cham: Springer, 61-71 | DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-44805-3_6 | PDF

Blaynee, Jessica; Kreps, David; Kutar, Maria; Griffiths, Marie (2016) Collaborative HCI and UX: Longitudinal diary studies as a means of uncovering barriers to digital adoption, in: Faily, Shamal; Jiang, Nan; Dogan, Huseyin; Taylor, Jacqui (Eds.) HCI 2016 – Fusion! Proceedings of the 30th International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference, BCS HCI 2016 (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK, 11-15 July 2016), Swindon: British Computer Society | DOI: 10.14236/ewic/HCI2016.72 | PDF

Authors introduce a principle of skeuomorphic reassurance that must guide the UI design for older population.




Burmistrov, Ivan; Zlokazova, Tatiana; Izmalkova, Anna; Leonova, Anna (2015) Flat design vs traditional design: Comparative experimental study, in: J. Abascal, S. Barbosa, M. Fetter, T. Gross, P. Palanque, M. Winckler (Eds.) Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2015: 15th IFIP TC 13 International Conference (Bamberg, Germany, September 14–18, 2015): Proceedings, Part II (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 9297), Cham: Springer, 106-114 | DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-22668-2_10 | PDF | Presentation

Experimental research showing that flat design means higher cognitive load, longer performance times and more errors. Flat design approach should be reconsidered in favor of the design principles developed over decades of research and practice of HCI and usability engineering.


Leech, Joe (2015) Flat design, affordance and taking responsibility | Link

“We need to stop designing for ourselves and take collective responsibility for our designs because we are alienating our users by blindly following fashion.”


Meyer, Kate (2015) Long-term exposure to flat design: How the trend slowly decreases user efficiency | Link

“Clickable UI elements with absent or weak visual signifiers condition users over time to click and hover uncertainly across pages – reducing efficiency and increasing reliance on contextual cues and immediate click feedback. Young adult users may be better at perceiving subtle clickability clues, but they don’t enjoy click uncertainty any more than other age groups.”


Meyer, Kate (2015) The characteristics of minimalism in web design | Link

“Our analysis of 112 minimalist websites revealed the defining features of minimalism: flat design, limited color schemes, few UI elements, use of negative space, and dramatic typography.”


Meyer, Kate (2015) The roots of minimalism in web design | Link

“When designers adhere too rigidly to a minimalist ideology, they risk ending up with wastefully low information density and poor findability and discoverability. Extreme minimalism can be useful as an internal design exercise, but should never be a final product.


Dönmez, Onur; Yaman, Fatih; Karasu, Hatice Pelin; Avcı, Elif; Kabakçı Yurdakul, Işıl; Şahin, Yusuf; Akay, Elif (2015) Designing mobile applications for hearing impaired children: Guidelines from the field, in: D. Slykhuis, G. Marks (Eds.) Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2015, SITE 2015 (Las Vegas, NV, United States, March 1-6, 2015), Chesapeake: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), 2962-2964 | PDF

Hearing impaired Turkish schoolchildren experienced difficulties with flat UI. Authors conclude:

Flat design does not work: Project group has initially favoured recently popular flat design paradigm. All images, interactive elements and buttons were designed as flat that had no shadows, highlights or emboss. However flat designed interactive elements did not give the “touchable/clickable” impression to students. <...> Fruitful options for indicating interactive elements were using 3D button styles, shades and highlights.”


Chakraborty, Abhishek; Hargude, Akshay Narayan (2015) Dabbawala: Introducing technology to the dabbawalas of Mumbai, in: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services: Adjunct (MobileHCI’15), New York: ACM, 660-667 | DOI: 10.1145/2786567.2793685 | PDF

Usability evaluation of a mobile app with users (tiffin carriers in Mumbai) revealed that participants had trouble distinguishing between text boxes, labels and buttons. As a result, developers replaced their original flat design with gradients and added skeuomorphism.


Cho, Minji; Kwon, Soyoung; Na, Nooree; Suk, Hyeon-Jeong; Lee, KunPyo (2015) The elders preference for skeuomorphism as app icon style, in: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’15), New York: ACM, 899-904 | DOI: 10.1145/2702613.2732887 | PDF

Korean elders preferred skeuomorphic icons over flat ones. Findings support the assumption that for older adults it is better to portray icons in a realistic and skeuomorphic manner than in a flat and abstract way.


Kuan, Pei-Hsuan; Huang, I-Chen; Wang, Yuan; Li, MingZhao; Duh, Henry Been-Lirn (2015) TAS MOVE: The processes of applying flat design in an efficiency require mobile application, in: V. Popovic, A. Blackler, D.-B. Luh, N. Nimkulrat, B. Kraal, Y. Nagai (Eds.) IASDR2015 INTERPLAY Proceedings (2-5 November 2015, Brisbane, Australia), Brisbane: Queensland Univerisity of Technology, 1175-1188 | PDF

Authors describe the process of flat design for a mobile travel app and the results of its usability testing with five users. Most users accomplished the tasks successfully but there were problems differentiating between clickable and non-clickable objects.


Lücken, Malte; Bruder, Gerd; Steinicke, Frank (2015) Evaluation von Buttons im Kontext des Gestaltungsstils Flat Design, in: S. Diefenbach, N. Henze, M. Pielot (Hrsg.) Mensch und Computer 2015 – Tagungsband, Stuttgart: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 307-310 | PDF

Experimental study of flat and 3D buttons, with and without border, with and without shadow, showed that button border is important for button clickability and reaction time. There were no other significant differences between different bordered button types. Also a small difference in subjective preference of more flat buttons was found among younger users when compared to users aged 40+.


Bunz, Mercedes (2015) School will never end: On infantilization in digital environments – Amplifying empowerment or propagating stupidity?, in: D. M. Berry, M. Dieter (Eds.) Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 191-202 | DOI: 10.1057/9781137437204_15 | PDF

Author analyzes recent trend on infantilization and stupiditization of user interfaces taking flat design as an example of this tendency.


Hoy, Amy (2015) “Flat design”? Destroying Apple’s legacy… or saving it | Link

“The direction of iOS 7, 8 and 9 is simply wrong. This is not an aesthetic argument. It’s wrong based on 40+ years of computer-human interaction research.”


Meyer, Kate (2015) Flat design: Its origins, its problems, and why Flat 2.0 is better for users | Link

“Flat design is a web-design style that became popular around 2012. It is still widely used today, and its overuse can cause serious usability problems. One of the biggest usability issues introduced by flat design is the lack of signifiers on clickable elements. Flat 2.0 may provide a better alternative.”


Ash, Tim (2015) An open letter to “minimalist” sites | Link

An article about three harmful trends in modern webdesign: “The lunacy of hidden desktop menus”, “The preposterous return of the splash screen”, “The insanity of ghost buttons”.


Johnson, Greg (2015) Flat design decreases usability. So stop | Link

“Flat design takes everything we’ve learned about affordance over the past 15 years and throws it out the window in the quest for the simplest interface we can pass off as an interface. The problem is that now it all looks like a flat brochure. Where’s the interactive design gone?”


Schiff, Eli (2015) Fall of the designer Part I: Fashionable nonsense | Link

“Flat design emerged as a convenient set of training wheels for shortsighted front-end developers and the increasingly disposable visual designers who blindly embraced the aesthetic. However, whether or not flat design would go on to increase interfaces’ enjoyment or usability for users was not a matter of importance for these designers or developers.”


Curtis, Ambrose (2015) Rhetoric of Flat Design and Skeuomorphism in Apple’s iOS Graphical User Interface, Master of Arts Thesis, Kingston: University of Rhode Island, vi+59 p. | Link | PDF

A rhetoric analysis of skeuomorphism and flat design in iOS interfaces. Author argues that these two design techniques – which are often argued to be in complete opposition – are actually the same in terms of many of the rhetorical strategies they rely on.


Pan, Yue; Stolterman, Erik (2015) What if HCI became a fashion-driven discipline?, interactions, 22, (6), 50-53 | DOI: 10.1145/2828430 | PDF

Pan, Yue; Stolterman, Erik (2015) What if HCI becomes a fashion driven discipline?, in: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15), New York: ACM, 2565-2568 | DOI: 10.1145/2702123.2702544 | PDF

Flat design is considered a shining example of fashion thinking trend in modern HCI.


Treder, Marcin (2015) 5 dangers of flat design | Link

“All 5 dangers might be summed up in a single sentence: Flat Design is hard.”


Schneidermeier, Tim; Hertlein, Franziska; Wolff, Christian (2014) Changing paradigm – Changing experience?: Comparative usability evaluation of Windows 7 and Windows 8, in: Aaron Marcus (Ed.) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Theories, Methods, and Tools for Designing the User Experience: Third International Conference, DUXU 2014, Held as Part of HCI International 2014 (Heraklion, Crete, Greece, June 22-27, 2014): Proceedings, Part I, Cham: Springer, 371-382 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 8517) | DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-07668-3_36 | PDF

A comparative usability study of Windows 8 (flat interface) and its predecessor Windows 7 (rich interface) showed that Windows 7 was superior to Windows 8 in each of three aspects of usability: effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.


Stickel, Christian; Pohl, Hans-Martin; Milde, Jan-Thorsten (2014) Cutting edge design or a beginner’s mistake? – A semiotic inspection of iOS7 icon design changes, in: Aaron Marcus (Ed.) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Theories, Methods, and Tools for Designing the User Experience: Third International Conference, DUXU 2014, Held as Part of HCI International 2014 (Heraklion, Crete, Greece, June 22-27, 2014): Proceedings, Part II, Cham: Springer,358-369 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 8518) | DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-07626-3_33 | PDF

This work follows an ongoing discussion on the implications of skeuomorphic vs. flat design for interface design. The findings suggest that missing information due to design simplification is a major issue for less user acceptance. This study shows that especially flat design affords a more careful focus on the semantics of the used elements.


Oswald, David; Kolb, Steffen (2014) Flat design vs. skeuomorphism – effects on learnability and image attributions in digital product interfaces, in: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits (Eds.) Design Education & Human Technology Relations: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2014) (University of Twente, The Netherlands, 4-5 September 2014), Westbury: Institution of Engineering Designers, 402-407 | Link | PDF

A longitudinal survey on how the reception of iOS 6 vs iOS 7 intefaces by the university students (aged between 19 and 42) changed over time.


Li, Chunfu; Shi, Huiting; Huang, Jingjing; Chen, Luying (2014) Two typical symbols in human-machine interactive interface, Applied Mechanics and Materials, 635-637, 1659-1665 | DOI: 10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.635-637.1659 | PDF

Flat icons scored higher on semantic scales such as “timeliness” and “simplicity”, but they fared worse than realistic icons in “identity”, “interest” and “familiarity” aspects.


Page, Tom (2014) Skeuomorphism or flat design: Future directions in mobile device User Interface (UI) design education, International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation, 8 (2), 130-142 | DOI: 10.1504/IJMLO.2014.062350 | PDF

A questionnaire survey was undertaken by design students to establish their awareness of skeuomorphism and their opinion of its relevance in UI design. The results showed a lack of knowledge about the areas of UI design, but once fully explored they agreed that skeuomorphism is relevant but not as a stand-alone process. However, it has been identified as a design tool that may be used in conjunction with other processes as shown by Google UI design exploring skeuominimalism.


Noessel, Chris (2014) Your flat design is convenient for exactly one of us | Link

“Pure, flat design doesn’t just get rid of dead weight. It shifts a burden.”


McGough, Oliver (2014) Flat design is going too far | Link

“It just feels as if the internet has lost it’s ‘Wow Factor’. I’m becoming tired of being confronted by the same template site after site. It feels as if every designer is being handed a set of 8-10 WordPress templates to deal with, and adapting sufficiently. Where’s the creativity gone, and when will it return?”


Hornor, Tara (2014) Why the flat design trend is hurting usability | Link

“Two large complaints about flat designs are that they are not intuitive and are simply way too confusing. Without the visual cues that help users know which icons are buttons, interfaces and websites leave many users frustrated.”


Gross, Shad; Bardzell, Jeffrey; Bardzell, Shaowen (2014) Skeu the evolution: Skeuomorphs, style, and the material of tangible interactions, in: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’14), New York: ACM, 53-60 | DOI: 10.1145/2540930.2540969 | PDF

We examine skeuomorphs – holdovers from previous functional material requirements – as they pertain to the design of tangible interactions. We offer several definitions of skeuomorphs from different disciplines, seeking to distinguish among different types and uses to explore skeuomorphs’ potential value for designing tangible user interfaces. Through critical analysis of several skeuomorphic designs, both GUI and TUI, we show that skeuomorphs are far from being limited to mere sensual metaphors; some types of interaction can be characterized as skeuomorphic. Finally, we offer three specific ways that skeuomorphic evolution can be present in design, with diverse implications for materiality, user experience, and style.


Winkelnkemper, Felix; Keil, Reinhard (2014) Zwischen Design und Flexibilität – Zur Ergonomie des Flat Design, in: M. Koch, A. Butz & J. Schlichter (Hrsg.) Mensch und Computer 2014 – Tagungsband, München: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 255-264 | PDF

Evaluation of flat design from basic ergonomics and human perception criteria.


Hou, Kai-Chun; Ho, Chun-Heng (2013) A preliminary study on aesthetic of apps icon design, in: Proceedings of 5th International Congress of the International Association of Societies of Design Research 2013 (IASDR Congress 2013) (Tokyo, August 26-30, 2013) | Link | PDF

Contrary to initial expectations of researchers, in this study Taiwanese users preferred skeuomorphic icons over flat ones in 75:25 proportion.


Linowski, Jakub (2013) Calling bull$#!%: On flat design | Link

“The fundamental thing about flat design is that it is a restrictive trend that ought to be questioned. Perhaps it’s cheaper to develop, design or maintain, but if taken in its literal interpretation it could result in a lower quality user interface. I believe that being respectful of people’s perception, attention, memory and the human ability to register depth, wins at the end of the day over following any stylistic fad.”


Enders, Jessica (2013) Flat UI and forms | Link

“What is simplicity and clarity? It’s the user knowing exactly what to do, and how to do it, with a minimum of effort. Achieving this kind of user experience means finding the right balance – not just going flat for flatness’s sake. When it comes to forms – frustrating experiences even at the best of times – it means knowing that less isn’t always simpler.”


Belveal, Roger (2013) Where have all the affordances gone? | Link

“The essence of the graphical user interface was not graphic design by graphic designers for graphic designers. It was to enable and empower users to interact with computers by way of visual representation of the functionality and the means to interact with it.


Edwards, James (2013) We can’t rely on color | Link

“What concerns me is that we’re throwing away design components which actually served an important purpose – powerful and well-understood visual cues, like borders, bevels and shadows. A design response to this will inevitably be more reliance on color and typography, and this in turn might lead to more accessibility problems.”


Debus, Rick (2013) When flat design falls flat | Link

iOS 7’s and Windows 8’s versions of flat design often sacrifice usability and well-established design best practices for flatness. To be fair, both Apple and Microsoft are listening to criticism.”


Bradley, Steven (2013) Flat design done wrong | Link

The Web isn’t Print. It’s funny how we sometimes understand that the web is different from print and sometimes we don’t. Just as we’re realizing that the web doesn’t come with the fixed dimension of print, we’re forgetting that it can offer more than a flat piece of paper. The web has depth. Treating it as though it’s a single flat dimension is just as dishonest as making digital objects look like real world physical ones.”


Svennerberg, Gabriel (2012) Design for clickability | Link

“Making things clickable is done for a single purpose, to get people to click on them. Yet, a lot of times, designers fail to make links or buttons look clickable. In fact, while this might seem like a no-brainer, a lot of sites get it wrong.”

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