WWDC saw Apple announce software updates across the board this week, with the addition of widgets to iOS 14 grabbing most of the headlines. MacOS will also be getting a rather significant redesign, but one particular element is already proving contentious with fans – the new icons.
MacOS Big Sur's icons seem to mark a return to skeuomorphism, which is more realistic than flat design. With increased shadows adding texture and depth, these new icons are certainly more 3D. But many are unhappy with the changes (check out our best free icons if you're looking for more iconic inspiration).
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In a MacRumors thread dedicated to the new icons, users describe them as "horrific and poorly designed," with one suggesting "it's like Apple has just discovered the shadow effect". Many Twitter users were equally disapproving:
what in the fresh hell are these hideous dock icons pic.twitter.com/vvRDdtXoVTJune 22, 2020
Hey designers I made a tutorial for migrating your icons to Big Sur pic.twitter.com/1ZOCQQTt0SJune 22, 2020
As the world of icon and logo design marches on towards flat design, a return to 3D, skeuomorphic design might seem like a backwards step for Apple. Perhaps the problem here is a lack of consistency – while the Stickies icon (with its handwritten shopping list) is positively skeuomorphic with its realistic design, others (such as Messages and Facetime) look like modern, flat designs with a drop shadow slapped on. It's almost as though Apple can't make up its mind which way it wants to go.
However, not everybody is hating the new designs. Indeed, some (below) are enjoying the extra detail of the new, 3D look – and even appreciating the middle ground between skeuomorphism and flat design.
The new icons in macOS Big Sur are fundamentally still Mac but so refreshing and pioneering. Congratulations to everyone that worked on this huge release!! pic.twitter.com/aS4iAk5qJLJune 22, 2020
Apple’s attention to detail pic.twitter.com/wQn8HZMvD7June 23, 2020
Evolution of the Safari icon on Mac #WWDC20 From pre-2014 skeuomorphic, to flat design, to finding a balance in between. pic.twitter.com/Jsu7v3jrA7June 22, 2020
While Apple might eventually find a sweet spot between the two design styles, we'd like to see a little more consistency across MacOS Big Sur. Perhaps the logos will be given a tweak before the software is officially released at the end of this year. In the meantime, check out today's best MacBook deals below.