real and fake


This was going to be an article about my secret love of Windows 8.

Playing around with a touch screen PC in a shop, tooling back and forth through the Metro interface, I fell in love. I loved that it had no bevels, drop shadows, textures or other skeuomorphism. I loved that it had been burnt to the ground then rebuilt for touch and screen (yes I know the old poxy interface is underneath and undermines my whole premise!)

I was struck by the tale of two tech companies with visionary founders underpinning them.

Apple gets all the cred for simplicity and design, and had a founder who held the company that he personified till the utter last minute possible, and left a gaping hole when he let go. Yet somehow, the further the company and its products went, the more ornament was laid over the top of the function, till some of the Apple-isms became standard – product reflection anyone? I’ve disliked each version of OS X more than the last.

Windows was the evil empire, with a string of awful unusable versions, but with a founder who left and allowed his company to be renewed. The new Microsoft logo epitomises their new thinking: clean, uncluttered and looking forward. There are no bouncing, glassy, beveled and reflecting icons in Windows 8. No leather and torn paper. Apple’s old turf.

But then it tied into a lot of other things in my head.

A while back I had been holding on to a Ruskin inspired philosophy of truth to your materials: a website is digital, there should be no drop shadows. (Rumour has it that his marriage was unconsummated because after viewing so many classical statues of women, he freaked out to see a real woman’s pubic hair, so perhaps his idea of real is a little wonky.)

I realised that looking at a white screen is like staring at snow in the sun, blank and harsh, and that some subtle depth trickery actually aids readability. It started with a little texture here and there, until I was planning my “serious” folio site with faux painted backgrounds and push pins. Then Windows 8 showed me those simple blue boxes with an X in the corner.

Do “real” and “fake” have any more value as labels than “authentic” or “hand-made?” Things sometimes become default because they’re the most workable solution. When I design a brochure, I don’t agonise over making it DL. Everyone instantly recognises a web button by its emboss/gradient/drop shadow.

Get over it.


  • Michael says:

    I must admit this post has a touch of William Gibson in it’s style and content…Have you read that book yet?! 🙂

    • Control Fink says:

      I did just start it yesterday, and weirdly enough despite being a collection of non-fiction essays, it reads like one of his novels. “The Man in the High Castle” was pretty phenomenal too.

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