My name is Jake Marsh.
I'm a developer, designer, and writer.

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Linens 'n Things

 •  3 minutes to read

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a minute to talk about this little bastard:


In recent months, the conversation amongst many of my designer friends has often drifted to something like this:

What the hell is with all the crazy textures and patterns in Apple's user interfaces lately?

I personally don't really mind all the texture, it's usually used fairly tastefully, and doesn't bother me at all.

I gained some insight into Apple's use of texture by reading this post by Nevan Mrgan. Perhaps we can attribute everything, from the horizontal stripes of OS X's Aqua, or the vertical pinstripes of iOS's UITableView, to Steve.

However, ever since I first saw Notification Center, something didn't quite make sense to me. First, a couple of important user interface metaphors in iOS:

Notification Center

The metaphor of the main Notification Center panel is that it slides down over whatever content is currently on your device's screen.

Multitasking Tray

Here there's a similar interfacing layering metaphor going on. No matter what part of the OS you're in, double-tapping the home button causes whatever content is on your screen to slide up, revealing a "tray" containing icons of your most recently used applications.

Both of these interfaces have our friendly neighborhood linen as their background texture. On their own, this wouldn't be too much of an issue but consider what Apple's goals are with the linen texture. I would argue it is to establish a clear hierarchy of content and controls, from back to front. The linen was used early on as the "underneath" texture of UIScrollViews and UIWebViews.

Assuming these goals, take a look at what's really going on here:

Strange Z-Order

The linen texture now shows up at multiple points in the hierarchy. This completely destroys the illusion of seeing behind or underneath the layers of the user interface.

I'd love to see Apple remedy this and assign clear layers to the different pieces of the interface.

It could be as simple as revising Notification Center to have a simple black background with beveled section headers, similar to what the fantastic Nik Radjenovic mocked up and posted on Dribbble. Shown here:

MoreSensible Notification Center

Something like what Nik has mocked up would easily establish a top position for Notification Center, thus restoring balance and order to the force.

Apple designers: please let the reign of the dark lords of linen end soon.

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