Get to know OS X Mavericks: design changes

Christopher Breen
24 October, 2013
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Apple’s latest updates to both iOS and OS X have largely banished skeuomorphism – design elements that imitate real-world counterparts. (The leather textures in Mountain Lion’s Calendar, Contacts and Notes applications are the most familiar examples.) Much like iOS 7, OS X Mavericks strips out these gaudier elements of Apple’s past designs and flattens faux-3D textures. Here are some of the visual changes you will likely notice in the new Mac OS.

Leather be gone

According to legend, Steve Jobs so admired the leather texture of the seats in his private jet that he demanded Apple’s designers incorporate their texture into the Calendar, Contacts and Notes applications (complete with stitching). As much as we love Jobs’ vision for most things, his obsession with rich Corinthian leather is one we’re happy to see fade away in OS X Mavericks.

We’re happy to see Steve Jobs' beloved leather go away in OS X Mavericks.

Not only has the leather border disappeared from each of the above-mentioned programs, but you’ll also no longer find faux binding stitches holding your address book together in Contacts. Without all the skeuomorphic elements, the application now has room for a title bar, which displays the number of contacts within the selected group. And Notes loses not only its torn paper border at the top of each note but also the small hieroglyphics-like trash icon at the bottom of each note – because presumably we all understand the function of the Mac’s Delete key.

Clean linen

The dark linen background has given way to simple dark grey.

Though the Corinthian leather was perhaps the most prominent texture in Lion and Mountain Lion, another was lurking about: dark linen.

That subtle pattern of white and grey threads appeared in the background of Notification Center, Mission Control and even OS X’s Accounts window. But no more: it too has been given the heave-ho. Where once you saw linen, now it’s dark grey.

Not content to merely strip out leather and linen, Apple’s designers also went after some less noticeable textures. If you compare Mavericks’ DVD Player to the one found in Mountain Lion, for instance, you’ll find that controls such as Video Zoom, Video Colour and Audio Equaliser are less transparent than their Mountain Lion counterparts. The Dashboard background was once littered with Lego-like dots; it’s now a smooth grey. And certain icons in System Preferences are flatter, losing their metal texture of old.

Not dead yet

If you miss the skeuomorphic design of apps, there’s always the Chess application.

While Apple has made some substantial moves away from skeuomorphic design in Mavericks, it hasn’t banished it entirely. Visit the Applications folder, and you’ll still find application icons that parrot their purpose: a tabbed address book still represents Contacts, Image Capture offers a point-and-shoot camera, Reminders is still a checklist and TextEdit hasn’t lost its pen or its inspirational (and marketable) words from John Appleseed.

More blatant examples also remain. Launch Game Center and – whoa! – the polished wood and green felt textures are still prominently on view. And if you’re interested in how our ancestors in the early 2000s rendered wood, grass, marble, metal and fur (complete with reflections, in most cases), you need only launch the venerable Chess application.

by Christopher Breen, Macworld

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