Skeuomorphism describes the creation of an object or design that contains elements that hearken back to attributes or structures of some other material or technique.
Some examples include:
- An electric light fashioned to look like a candle holder, with light bulbs that resemble candle flames
- A plastic container stylized or painted to look like it is made of a natural material, like wood
- A digital music app with an interface designed to look like an analog stereo system
- A computer's desktop and folder structure, modeled after a physical desk and filing cabinet
Skeuomorphism can help create affordances that help us learn about or understand how to interact with or use a novel object. However, skeuomorphism can also constrain our understanding of the possibilities afforded to us by new technologies.
- Skeuoumorphic models limit possibilities for innovation - Skeuomorphic models can anchor us and limit the imagination, especially when moving from analog to digital
- Metaphors structure our interpretation of the world - Skeuomorphism creates metaphors between objects and therefore structure how we understand them