Portland designer and developer Neven Mrgan points out a flaw in the new iOS 7 Jony Ive grid:


Jony Ive’s new “icon grid” is a guide meant to ensure that different apps’ icons look harmonious on the home screen. That’s a lofty goal. The issue of whether a grid can really accomplish that is complex; most designers think that non-block-based designs (so, not paragraphs of text, not photos, not headings) require a lot of “optical adjustment”. This is fancy talk for “tweak it so it looks right.”

But whether we accept the idea of a grid or not, here’s the bigger point: no icon designer I’ve asked thinks Ive’s grid is helpful. In that sense, it’swrongThe large circle is too big. Many apps in iOS 7 use it: all the Store apps, Safari, Messages, Photos… In all these icons, the big shape in the center is simply too big. Every icon designer I’ve asked would instead draw something like the icon on the right. To our eyes—and we get paid to have good ones, we’re told—this is more correct.

Which is a fascinating stance. But R.E. Warner has an equally interesting opposing position of note:

In Neven Mrgan’s critique, he discusses the make-up of an icon’s design without discussing its context. Devoid of context, critiquing a design on how it feels is to discuss its emotive qualities, and those qualities never exist in a void. Responses to emotive qualities are the domain of culture and psychology and any psychologist worth her salt would tell you that those responses are never derived from hard and fast rules. The color red to a Westerner can mean a warning; to an Easterner it can signify good luck.

I mean to say that it is foolish for a designer to rely on intuition to inform design because it yields repetition and blinds her from new opportunities. A small mind is a limited mind and using intuition as a guide will yield nothing new, only that which “feels right.” Or to put it another way, what “feels right” is what your mind is used to.

What say you? Is the new app icon grid wrong? Do you practice intuitive, what-feels-right decision making? Do you obey the grid at all cost?

By Michael Buchino
Published June 25, 2013
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