Most people who’ve been using the word skeuomorphic lately aren’t exactly clear about what it actually means. Over the past year or so it has gained a lot of attention because it’s one of the techniques used by designers at Apple, but most of the discussion about it has been far from productive.

First of all, skeuomorphism is actually a sharply defined and angular phrase that describes a very specific design technique. On a basic level, it’s designing an object that mimics, both in appearance and use, a real-world counterpart. This kind of technique is evident in apps on iOS like Contacts, which uses a leather-bound contacts book with flippable pages to represent a ‘real’ book of contacts.

We won’t get granular here about how much it does or does not work (there are issues with Contacts, let’s be honest), as that’s not really the point. But for more in-depth discussion, I suggest this great breakdown by RealMac’s Christopher Downer.

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