Neomorphism, the new design trend that Apple has used in macOS Big Sur

There’s a new word starting to appear on tech blogs: Neomorphism. It is the new trend in design, and although many mistakenly confuse it with skeumorphism, it is something very different from what we will have to get used to.

The macOS Big Sur presentation unveiled major cosmetic changes for the first time in years. The jump in the numbering of macOS (from macOS 10.15 to macOS 11) comes accompanied by a design change in the system interface that has been shocking for many. As always when the appearance of any product that has remained almost unchanged for a long time is changed, the decision triggers love and hate in equal parts, or perhaps even more hate than love. But this is not something that Apple has taken out of the sleeve, it is a new design trend that goes beyond Apple, and to which we will have to get used to.

The arrival of iOS 7 was a radical change in the interface of our iPhone. Accustomed to the outline of their icons, the new flat icons with garish colors and gradients were shocking to most. Now there are many who believe that this new change seen in macOS Big Sur is a return to that schemorism of the past, but it is not. Neomorphism and scheumorphism are very different as I explain below.

Icons for iOS 6 vs. iOS 7

Icons for iOS 6 vs. iOS 7

When Apple released iOS 7 and its new flat and colorful icons, it left behind years of gossip. This type of design was based on using real objects to design the interface of your systems. So the camera icon looked like a real camera lens, the Kiosk app simulated a wooden bookshelf, or the Notes app resembled a real notebook. Colors and textures were used to make those icons as close as possible to their real-world correspondences. New iOS 7 flat icons removed any type of texture, shine, or shadow and they added very striking colors.

Neomorphism does not try to imitate real objects, there are no different types of materials or textures, instead lights and shadows are used to give the elements a three-dimensional look. In the scheumorfismo lights and shadows were also used, but as secondary elements, necessary to give “reality” to the icons. In neomorphism, this light affects the entire interface and is the priority element; the shadows and brightness that are generated must correspond between all the elements, while in the scheumorphism, these shadows and lights are independent in each icon.

At the moment this new trend appears in macOS Big Sur, not in iOS or iPadOS, but it will be only a matter of time to see the neomorphism in all Apple operating systems. We will have to incorporate this new word in our personal dictionaries, and above all adapt our eyes to the new interface, but this is just the beginning.