The main headlines from Apple's WWDC keynote on Monday were about the arrival of iOS 7 and Mac OS X Mavericks, and the launch of new MacBook Airs and Mac Pros.
But the subtext featured one man's name in a way it hasn't for Apple since before Steve Jobs' death. That man is of course Sir Jonathan Ive, who had taken a controlling hand of the visual evolution of iOS 7.
In the run-up to Monday's event we were told to expect a non-skeumorphic “flat” design language – “black, white and flat all over” was the annoyingly glib quote that sticks in the mind – with Ive's aesthetic touch supposedly having affected everything from app icon design to colour groups.
Post-Monday, however, the talk has generally been far less positive. Many think the overall look and feel of iOS has taken a step backwards, and where most of the negative verdicts have focused is on those very app icons we were told represented the best of Ive's industrial designer sensibilities.
So what happened? Well according to The Next Web, Sir Jony – and Apple – basically ran out of time, and the snapshot of iOS 7 we saw on Monday was affected by a combination of shortcuts and miscommunication, leading to a rushed, and more importantly unfinished, vision of how Ive wants iOS 7 to look.
Ive reportedly decided to get the print and web marketing design team to set the look and colour palette of the core app icons. Those guidelines were then given to the app design teams who worked on the details.
The problem was there were several competing designs running concurrently within each team, and the teams themselves weren't communicating much. Hence the lack of the very consistency in look and feel Ive was supposed to be introducing.
Based on various chats with people inside Apple, TNW reckons what we saw was a “mid-stride snapshot” of iOS 7, with development still going on at full speed, and icon design and other visual characteristics said to be the aspects of the OS most in flux.
So Apple is indeed still hard at work, and if anyone involved thought they were near the finish line the general reaction to what we saw on Monday will probably have changed their minds for them.
There's no question the idea is to give iOS 7 a “younger” feel after six consecutive versions offering only minor tweaks. Where we are now is probably best called “immature”. Ive's reputation will take a big knock if he's not able to navigate from one to the other by the time iOS 7 is released in full in a couple of months' time.