Reverse-Skeuomorphism: When 'Digital Things' Transcend the Screen to Analogue Devices

By Sam Scott on at

Many will agree that Apple remains the master of industrial design in the digital age, but over the last year or so, some of their interface designs have divided opinion, and it comes down to a concept known as 'skeuomorphism'.

A skeuomorph is anything that mimics the aesthetic of an older design, even when doing so no longer contributes to its function. Apple's 'iCal' app, for instance, has a sewn leather frame, when it clearly doesn't need one. Some see this as a harmless nod to the days of FiloFaxes; others say it alleviates future shock but hinders innovation.

And then there's 'Reverse-Skueomorphism' which implies the opposite move -- the jump from digital 'bits' back to real-world 'atoms'. We gathered some curious examples of what happens when 'digital things' transcend the screen.


Sweet Tweet

Uniform Lab's 'Sweet Tweet' made Twitter followers chewable. Each time they received a new follower on twitter, a piece of bubble gum would be released from a cuckoo clock and make its way down a paper runway to their desk. Yum.


The NotPad

The NotPad looks just like an iPad, except its not. It's just some paper with an acetate cover sheet. "Compatible with most hardware, including pens, pencils and crayons". Perfect fro all you budding Magritte wannabes out there. [Via Firebox]


8-Bit Pixilated Tie

This Pixelated 8bit Tie is geek-chic for those formal, offline occasions. [Via ThinkGeek]


Real Life Angry Birds


Photographer Jason Lee subjects his daughters to the perils of 'real-life Angry Birds'. [Via Geekosystem]


Thumbs-Up Bull Clips

While opposable thumbs preceded Facebook by several millennia, 'liking' as we know it has its roots online. These Thumbs-Up Bull Clips let you 'like' in real life. [Via 25togo]



Perhaps Serato is the odd one out here, because its exploites the functionality of bits and bytes, whilst dumping the digital aesthetic. Serato allows you to spin mp3s on vinyl, which is handy for those DJs who like to pretend that the whole digital thing never really happend.

This week, we're celebrating the many facets of modern design on Gizmodo UK, with a design theme week. Bookmark this page for all related stories, features, interviews and competitions, or contact us here with tips.