Big, Bold, and Beautiful: iOS 10 Design

Written by: on July 6, 2016

The aesthetic of iOS didn’t change much regardless of Apple’s introduction of iOS 10 as Big, Bold and Beautiful. It is all of those things, but it already was all of those things. After doing a thorough review of the Human Interface Guidelines, Apple is still leaning in to the philosophies of Clarity, Deference and Depth.

Notifications and Widgets

Notification and widgets are now using a frosted glass, bubble, rounded-rect look. This is a large departure, at least for notifications, from what iOS 9 brought us. There are two advantages to the frosted-glass-rounded-rect-bubbles. First, the bubbles themselves give a nice visual distinction to the data. The bubbles allow a visual separation that, in particular, the notification drawer did not have previously. The information is easier to consume and easier to differentiate app to app. Secondly, the bubbles themselves have a heavy drop shadow and “float” above the background. When notifications are interacted with, the background blurs giving more focus to the notification actions themselves. These animations, blurs and shadows are allowing users to design in three-dimensional space, giving origination and hierarchy information to the user.


The Messages app has some new design elements but they are primarily changes to animation and interaction design. Animated stickers, scribble messages, and invisible-ink messages are all animated pieces of interaction to give the user a delightful experience. It is important to learn from Apple how to create moments of wonder using animation and 3D design. We are no longer designing flat apps in layered files. Motion and transition are things that should be designed for every app on the platform.

3D Touch

3D touch was introduced for phone devices with iOS 9, but since Depth is an interface guideline, we will only see more uses for 3D touch. 3D touch uses the same UI, a frosted glass bubble, that it used before. What is most compelling for app developers is bringing 3D touch into apps. As the gesture becomes more common for users, it opens the ability to start thinking about designing apps in three-dimensional space. “If I force touch this element will it give me a shortcut?” users will begin to ask themselves and they will try it more and more often.

Apple Music

Finally, let’s talk about Apple Music and Apple News. The first words I heard everyone say were “bold” and “typography” and those are spot on for both app redesigns. There were a lot of layout changes and breaking of current UI guidelines in the Apple Music redesign. But, the UI redesign was only implemented in these two apps. Notes did not get a makeover, Mail still looks the same. I have a theory about this. Apple decided to design app UI that highlights the content and they did that well. The visual focus is on navigation and what is playing or being read right now. Where you are in your library, and the imagery that goes along with music. This design language was not intended to be used as a guideline for other apps. There is no mention of this design paradigm in the HIG.

Overall, app developers and designers do not need to make any major changes to their current app design if they are already designing in a way that utilizes the Human Interface Guidelines. Looking forward, I suspect we’ll see the BIG start to incorporate new guidelines for motion and 3D touch as they become more ingrained for users.

Danielle Reubenstein

Danielle Reubenstein

Danielle is the Executive Creative Director for POSSIBLE Mobile, a leading mobile development company. A trained cinematographer, Danielle has a passion for bringing users through stories of all types including mobile applications. With her deep-rooted technical knowledge and design background she has been a significant force in growing the creative practice at POSSIBLE Mobile and ensuring that all customer products go into the marketplace both looking and working beautifully.

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