Via Fast Company:
What’s skeuomorphism? If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you’ve experienced digital skeuomorphic design: calendars with faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, fake glass and paper and brushed chrome. Skeuomorphism is a catch-all term for when objects retain ornamental elements of past, derivative iterations–elements that are no longer necessary to the current objects’ functions.
In software, skeuomorphism can be traced back to the visual metaphors designers created to translate on-screen applications before users were accustomed to interacting with computer software: virtual folders to store your documents, virtual Rolodexes to store contacts. But over time, skeuomorphism has seeped into all areas of UI design, especially in Apple’s software, where text documents, for example, are made to look like yellow legal pads.
Apple’s podcast app is a perfect example of how skeuomorphism can make apps worse. It’s one of the ugliest and hardest to use pieces of Apple software out there. The FastCo article is a must read, tracing the battle over software design to Steve Jobs.