I caught my first in-person glimpse of Apple’s new OS “Yosemite” the other day. As expected for some time now and confirmed during the latest WWDC keynote, Apple has decided to double down on the flat design of iOS 7 by bringing to the desktop. Although “flat” is mostly just an alternative aesthetic, some design decisions are controversial, like the decision to use Helvetic Neue for the menu bar and elsewhere. A change in font may seem like a trivial point, but like other aspects of the flat design, it represents a fairly clear trade of usability (readability in this case) for a more modern look.
This is a great opportunity for the Linux desktop to shine. By sticking to more proven design techniques like legible fonts and higher contrast interface elements, it can demonstrate that it values the user’s experience first, and the visual design du jour as a distant second.
This is somewhat reminiscent of Microsoft’s introduction of Metro for the desktop in Windows 8, which received a tepid reaction at the very best, and was justifiably condemned at worst. The only problem for Linux is that when that particular faux pas was made, it was competing for its user base with the still-shining Apple aesthetic, but those days may slowly be coming to an end.
The temptation to imitate the current trend setters like Apple will be strong. I hope the various Linux desktop projects can resist, and instead use the opportunity to pull ahead of the pack.