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skeuomorphism

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Skeuomorphism is the design concept of making items represented resemble their real-world counterparts. Skeuomorphism is commonly used in many design fields, including user interface (UI) and Web design, architecture, ceramics and interior design. Skeuomorphism contrasts with flat design, a simpler graphic style.

In UI and Web design, skeuomorphism attempts to create three dimensional (3-D)  effects on a 2-D (flat) surface. A skeuomorphic icon on a smartphone display that represents the phone function, for example, is designed to look as much like a telephone (or handset) as is feasible, typically with shadowing, highlights and some degree of detail. A button might appear to be raised until clicked and then appears to lower as if it had been physically pressed. Non-visual skeuomorphs include the page-turning movement used to advance an eBook, the sound of a record ending at the end of a CD and the sound of a camera shutter on a digital camera.

Skeuomorph comes from the Greek skeuos (meaning container or tool), and morphê (meaning shape).

This was last updated in June 2013

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