Flatland

Should the virtual world try to look like the real one?

Illustration by Joe Magee

In 1890 an Archaeologist named Henry Colley March published an article in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society titled "The Meaning of Ornament: Or Its Archaeology and Its Psychology." In the article, March coined a word, a rather obscure and homely one: skeuomorph. He probably never anticipated that this word would become the focus of an intense 21st century debate in the field of digital-interface design, a debate being played out on the world's PCs and tablets and phones, right under the noses of billions of people who have no idea what a skeuomorph even is.

The term skeuomorph...

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