Digital Kitsch Lies To The User & Presumes They’re Stupid

“Look at the new elec­tronic books, par­tic­u­larly those on Apple’s amaz­ing iPad: a book is pre­sented as a repro­duc­tion of the tra­di­tional stack of bound pieces of paper. Going from one page to the next is accom­pa­nied by an ani­ma­tion of it being turned, even with the sound of paper being rus­tled. While you keep thumb­ing pages, how­ever, the stack stays equally thick on either side, turn­ing the metaphor into a lie, into dig­i­tal kitsch. It feels wrong and it is wrong. Metaphors are use­ful because we do not really want to know what goes on in the dig­i­tal maze under the bon­net that the oper­at­ing sys­tem hides. Super­flu­ous visual noise doesn’t make the read­ing any eas­ier, it just pre­sumes that we’re too stu­pid to notice the dif­fer­ence between a stack of glued paper and a battery-driven piece of plas­tic. If peo­ple really wanted to emu­late the whole phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence, why not give us the musty smell of old books, the scent of print­ing ink?”

Legendary typographer/typophile and design master Erik Spiekermann describes his woes with Apple’s recent trend—particularly with Mac OS X Lion and Mountain Lion—towards skeuomorphic UI and digital kitsch. And he’s right. He’s absolutely right. Read more on his article From Metaphor to Maturity.


2 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. I’m more convinced by this:
    Some examples are plain stupid, but the author still makes a good point.

  2. By the way, remember window shadows? Those are also digital kitch. And they also presume the user is stupid because they do not behave like real-life drop shadows. Here’s how “non-stupid” drop shadows look like:
    But the “stupid” ones are obviously better for usability.

    On a side note, a device that provides the musty smell of old books and the scent of print­ing ink without insane maintenance procedures could be quite popular.