It was only a few weeks ago that I was first introduced to this word – meaning bits of design that are based on old fashioned, physical objects – and since then have been picking up more and more of this concept in both my everyday life and the objects that surround us.
Have no doubt, the term skeuomorphs is generally meant as a pejorative term; as it the crowbarring of modern ideas to fit out moded models that is being questioned.
An every day example of this would be the calendar in your MacBook that both looks like an old desk top calendar and even rips pages off as you use them and also forces you to look at a months passed information as you get to the final days of each month and not the future four weeks.
Some times a skeuomorph can be used to assist consumers to move forward from one level of technology to another – like the kindle reader that behaves like a book with the turning of pages but at other times it is just both silly and anachronistic.
As a case in point I give to you the newly launched Olympus OM-D E-M5.
Anyone over the age of 30 is probably going to tell you this looks funnily like the Olympus OM-1, which was probably one of the most rock and roll SLR’s from the 70’s ever made. Iconic concert pictures seemed to be taken with the OM-1 more than any other SLR at the time and today they remain a great old SLR (current ebay prices seem to be anywhere between US$ 10 and US$ 200 for one with the Zuiko 50/1.8 kit lens) .
They will also tell you that it was the first compact SLR – smaller than the other makers at the time, through completely redesigning the internal layout of the SLR.
This parody above unfortunately is mirrorless with the electronic viewfinder in the pentaprism and the 4/3 set up for the growing number of lenses available for this market. It is sold as being aimed at the photographer who is wishing to look more professional – although that seems a strange statement and may just be badly translated from Japanese…
Fuji, who remain one of my favourite camera and film makers, have continued their use of skeuomorphs through the X100 and now the smaller X10 that look like range finders but are not rangefinders – but appear to be pretty decent cameras.
I understand the need for cameras to look like cameras – as they fit our hands and faces and obviously our minds; but their design has changed over the decades and so foistering cameras to play on nostalgia suggests an over consuming society is being pandered to and at the same time, technological design is taking two steps back to take one forward.