Nov 5, 2014 — by: Mark Reschke
Categories: iOS, OS X


OS X, the world’s most advanced operating system, took some large leaps forward in its latest release called Yosemite. Technology such as Continuity, Mail Drop, and users being able to send and receive phone calls via the Mac, all in a speedy new OS are great advances. But for all of Yosemite’s achievements on the tech side of the house, did it go too far with its look and feel?

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design, is not only in charge of hardware design, but also leads the team responsible for iOS and OS X’s look and feel, known as the User Experience (or UX). Ive’s first UX reveal came in the form of iOS 7. By any measure it was a jarring experience. The OS became simple in form, flat as a pancake with an intuitive feel, but some colors were drastically faded, while others were jarringly bright. The mobile OS took many technological steps forward, but it was not easy on the eyes in the least. 

Over time Ive refined iOS, and for the most part, completed the task in iOS 8. Looking back, iOS 7’s design language almost looked rushed, with iOS 8 having very few UX complaints to its name. iOS 8 is simply what iOS 7 always wanted to be.

But what of OS X Yosemite? Is it another iOS 7, or did Ive and the team learn from user feedback?

The fear of another eye fatiguing OS being brought to life in Yosemite is non-existent. Yosemite certainly has its design quirks, but Ive did not introduce any overly saturated icons, as the OS utilizes a sensible, calming, color palate. Following the iOS theme of flat, Yosemite introduces that concept across the board. From Safari to Mail flat is the mantra. App icons are also flat and while they still contain a bit of skeuomorphism, within applications the idea of real-world nobs and buttons are almost non-existent. 

Discussing the design language amongst my colleagues, the largest areas of concern crop up in the areas of Yosemite’s overly muted colors. Stacked windows are nearly identical in color, making them difficult to differentiate. Within Safari, one tab to another blend in far too easily. It becomes nearly impossible to tell between the active and inactive tabs when a bright or rich color behind Safari is bleeding through the transparent design.

Gray scale is the theme of the day with Yosemite. Mail and other pre-installed applications have become so monochromatic, it makes me wonder whether Ive used a Mac Plus to design Yosemite’s color palette? 

Not being overly critical, the look and feel of Yosemite is an advancement, with a clean and snappy feel. But there are certainly design elements where Ive’s team can enhance the OS with just a few simple color, shadow or saturation tweaks to make the interface even easier to use. With Ive’s history of iOS refinements, we expect nothing less with OS X Yosemite.

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  1. Planetary Paul ~ Nov. 5, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    The greyness is terrible and pointless. I can't for the life of me figure out why they did that and I heve never come across any motivation anywhere. Probably because it's just bollocks. To me the grey icons in the Finder are meaningless blobs to me so I have to use the text. This is an aspect that should be optional in the Prefs: Grey or Colour theme. Ive may be a hardware design guru, he has a long way to go in UI. #
  2. Mike ~ Nov. 5, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

    Some of the grey menus remind me of Windows NT4. Yuk! #
  3. thebeeline ~ Nov. 5, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

    I agree, the grey icons in Finder are meaningless and you have to read the words. You may as well not have them. In which case, why not ditch them in the dock and just use words! lol The colourful sidebar made so much sense because I would just focus on the icon, which I could tell apart from the others in the list. My productivity is lessened as a result. Same applies to the bullet point tags; the colour bars were so much better to identify. It's more effort for the eye to have to travel across from the name of the folder to the bullet tag on the right. Let's face it, the eye is 'lazy' and always goes for the least line of resistance. And design needs to recognise that. The UI needs to at least provide some choice. Looking 'nice' is one thing, usefulness and productivity are also important. Well, they are to me. My machine is a tool, not just a piece of furniture. #
  4. Kc ~ Nov. 5, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

    I've turned off the translucent windows and my life is much happier now. Flat icons I can live with, shadowy pages not so much. #
  5. Paul ~ Nov. 5, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

    If you want ugly, click the 'Downloads' icon in the Dock and let it fan out. It's all badly pixelated. #
  6. Mike Stroven ~ Nov. 7, 2014 @ 6:22 am

    Jonathon Ive is a blithering IDIOT! *his* taste sucks... From the ROUND mouse that never pointed the same way twice, to a monitor stand that you can't turn, to the SDCard Slot in the *BACK* of the iMac to this cartoonish low-tech flat UI, his influence makes the Mac LESS desirable. He should go. #
  7. Paul ~ Nov. 7, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

    Mike, talk about hardware - with the power buttons on the BACK. It's probably OK on an iMac but it sucks big time on the Mac Mini as you generally squeeze the unit into a small space. So put the damn power switch on the front. I actually run my Mac Mini with the back facing forward. And lets talk about the iMacs with the faulty graphics cards as was the case some years ago. The display would fail just after warranty. And I don't care if the hardware is designed in the US, the things are made in Communist China and then naming the OS after US landmarks - that's just to pretend to be patriotic - if you're not in the US we don't care. (sorry guys, off topic but it bugs me) #
  8. Furutan ~ Nov. 8, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

    For me, the touchstone is intuitive practicality. Having a tiny little word in the bottom right of the phone keypad to dismiss the keypad is nowhere near as practical as the pre iOS 7 UI. Having to stare carefully at the dial in the clock timer as teeny numbers scale slightly up to a too-small size numbers is not sensible. As for the icons with bright neon colors, I'm a serious professional, not a fifteen-year-old kid. Apple should provide the option for a grown-up look as an alternative to the teenybopper look. #
  9. Tom ~ Nov. 11, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    #6. Yes, yes and yes. I remember an interview Steve Jobs gave quite a while ago, when he said, "Microsoft has no taste." Well, Ive finally brought Apple up to Microsoft standards -- actually a little worse. Hmmmm... Could "flat" look and feel "flat"? I am a graphic designer. I have used Macs since 1985. Apple has received its fair share of criticism during three decades, but it might well ask itself why, for the FIRST TIME IN ITS HISTORY, its graphic design has been judged so harshly by so many (or called into question at all). I have shown the icons side-by-side to several friends, none of whom are designers. Every one said the iOS 6 icons were much more attractive. It's certain that no one did the side-by-side comparison in Cupertino. Yes, Ive should go. Apple's worst hire since John Sculley. #
  10. Alfred ~ Nov. 16, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

    Without Jobs around to edit Ive, he is off the rails in my opinion. And I don't think he is as preternaturally excellent at software design as he is with hardware. This flat and washed out OS design is more bad than good for my tastes. I can see some benefits in the move towards flat but without Jobs to make some final decisions on degree and polish, Apple doesn't seem able to make a true home run of the effort. #
  11. mcdon ~ Dec. 8, 2014 @ 2:01 am

    As soon as I updated to yosamite I felt, I should not have updated. There is a quality difference in drawing in two seconds and drawing in a minute with an experienced person. Yosamite is cooked! The praise comes from those who bought Apple shares! The negative comments comes from the user who cares. #
  12. Jon ~ Dec. 11, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

    "Yosemite certainly has its design quirks, but Ive did not introduce any overly saturated icons, as the OS utilizes a sensible, calming, color palate." Did you manage to write this article without, for example, LOOKING at any icons? Dear god, they make my eyes bleed just being in the same room. #
  13. deltanick ~ Jan. 20, 2015 @ 7:42 am

    Jonny Ives is a brilliant hardware designer. But when it comes to software, not so much. The "flattened" look reminds me of an early version of Windows. Yosemite is SO "dumbed down," that if Hollywood adopts Ives' philosophy, they'll have terrific screens and theaters (hardware), but no more motion pictures, just cartoons (software). Apple used to do it MUCH better. And Yosemite Mail's Address Book is non-functional. Addressing an e-mail in the past to 30 or 40 people used to take maybe a minute. With Yosemite Mail, it takes 5-10 minutes. Why does the Address Book close after each entry? This will NOT work in the business world, and it discourages me from sending e-mails to more than one person. Addressing an e-mail to multiple addresses has become a difficult chore I'd rather not do. #
  14. WPCF ~ Jan. 22, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

    Right off the top it needs to be said; Yosemite is an ugly, counterintuitive, overly difficult, amateurish heap of smoldering camel poop. I am trying to be nice here. By far, the stupidest thing I’ve done this year was to “upgrade” to Yosemite from Snow Leopard on my 27” iMac. It was the biggest step backwards into Microsoft Vista hell you could imagine. If you’re thinking of “upgrading” – don’t. Unless you’re the type of person that thinks Justin Biber has talent. Then you’ll probably love it. Honestly, and I can’t stress that enough (I’m not trying to be cute or clever) Yosemite has the appearance and operating charm of a system designed by 15 year olds that think their version of cool is going to be received with cheers by everyone. It is, first and foremost, UGLY. Ugly to the point of appearing as though sabotage crew from Microsoft infiltrated the Apple design and tech center with the goal of running Apple’s past reputation for making products that look great and anyone could use and enjoy. All of the graphics; icons, desktop, dock, menu’s, files, help pages, mail and literally everything else, is so ugly and difficult to read or understand it’s like something you’d expect ToysRus to market. (My apologies to ToysRus) It all looks unfinished, childish and primitive. Think Windows ’95 on a bad day. So dealing with this ugly mess in front of me I thought, OK, so it’s really ugly, it must have some really great features I haven’t discovered yet. WRONG. Oh, it has some new features alright. One day out of eight that I could connect to the internet, messages popping up telling me all sorts of useless information, other apps and things that I really needed to work, suddenly became either useless or frustratingly stupid – all of this and more but the bonus was it was s l o w – really – s l o w. My once elegant, beautifully performing machine was now an ugly, poorly performing anchor. Luckily I was able to re-install Snow Leopard and return my iMac to the speed, functionality and beautiful appearance it was designed to have. What a difference. The bottom line is, listen to the negative reviews. They are RIGHT. If you have no taste and are prone to being at the back of the herd like a brain dead follower for no apparent reason, go for it. Hey, so what it’s a nightmare to work with – at least it’s ugly! #
  15. Mike Stroven ~ Jan. 31, 2015 @ 1:20 am

    And can anyone tell me WHY it was necessary to change the iTunes icon to red? It has been blue for over a decade. I've had Yosemite 3 months and it still takes me a while to find the bloody itunes icon... #
  16. Paul P ~ Mar. 21, 2015 @ 7:17 pm

    Completely agree with all the comments here! Not going to take it out of any designer but Apple really have dropped the ball with the 10.10 UX. I reverted back to 10.9 and staying put for now. Simply reinforces the theory of the OS X march toward to iOS Walled Garden. They will merge in time. With Aperture & iPhoto replaced by Photos, the next step will be Final Cut Pro & iMovie replaced by... MOVIES! On to my 2nd bitch of the day, why has Apple abandoned the professional user base who supported the company through the turbulent 90s? I guess the eye candy, feel good crowd is far more lucrative. Consumerism at is best! #
  17. SadAppleCorp ~ Apr. 11, 2015 @ 11:00 am

    Ive needs to go. He is flatly bombastic and Yosemite is his Waterloo. What a disaster. I cannot stand looking at Yosemite for more than a few seconds before fighting down the reflux of vile bile. What a disaster. Now I realize how important Steve was to Apple - he suppressed the more looney aspects of Apple Corp. Oh how I miss his touch on products. Apple Watch is overwrought with N-incarnations and a bulky design reminiscent of 1950's automobiles. It's just ugly. Will this affect Apple's stock in the short-run? Not likely. There are too many sheeple who will lap the crap and lavish praise on Ive for being "so daring". Long-term, this is an opportunity. Dare I say Microsoft now has an opportunity where none existed before. Apple has become Microsoft in the 1990s... What a turn of events. Incredible. #
  18. Peter Martin ~ Jun. 10, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

    10.10.3 has evidently been designed so everything is more difficult and time-consuming. Black type has been changed to gray type, so it's harder to see. Helvetica Neue, a hard-to-read font, has been chosen. The info at the bottom of the Finder windows -- which used to tell you how much space was available on a drive -- is gone (that disappeared several versions ago, I believe). The Forward and Back buttons on the top left have gone from easy-to-see jet-black triangles to thin gray lines. The slider bar on the right now disappears after one second. And don't even get me started on Safari version 8. Apple has obviously never heard of. or heeded, the old expression, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Disaster. #
  19. Chris Raymond ~ Aug. 7, 2015 @ 7:45 am

    I've been a designer for nearly 20 years. One basic principle: don't use fonts created for print in digital displays. I found a hack to revert to the hinted-for-monitors Lucida Grande. Ironic that monitors and devices are getting more and more high-res, while the new UI looks like it was done for a 256 color palette and low-res monitors. Seriously, instead of refined forward and back buttons, we now have, apparently, the left and right caret from a keyboard. Ive's made a statement, alright: that he fails in the basic requirements of good graphic design. Every day, for 8 hours, I have to see BLACK highlighting in mail messages, indistinguishable icons in the sidebar, all because to use Creative Cloud 2015, one has to run Yosemite. The stupid childish smiley face of the Apple finder says it all: Apple is now designing for the masses and trying to suck everything into its maw. No I don't need icloud, I don't need to get notified about every breath someone in the cloud has taken. I need to get my WORK done. I was an Apple supporter for two decades when it was built for the creative disciplines. Now it looks like some poor-a** version of Windows, with the same monopolistic arrogance of Microsoft. #
  20. Tom ~ Aug. 21, 2015 @ 12:35 pm

    They could have just had "modes" where you could choose a 3D mode (pre Yosemite) or Flat mode. Yeah, some overhead and more disk space, but not a huge thing or unmanageable. Linux has that and more. #
  21. lyonnel ~ Oct. 6, 2015 @ 4:38 am

    In Yosemite, some apps (like Flavours 2) let you put back the mavericks' look. In El Capitan, that kind of applications can't work at all. It's worst than ever !!!! I hate that flat design (the worst is the fonts ! they're so ugly ...and blurry ? why ?!!!). Seriously, when I will buy a new computer, if I can't have an OS with older design (even mavericks is not perfect: grey icons in lateral bar, tags that you can't see well, ... but it would be usable), I think I will come back to windows (or, may be hackintosh with older OS..but softwares won't work a long time on Mavericks) #
  22. Jim ~ Oct. 8, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

    Fugly as all hell. That is all. #

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