Rhetoric of flat design and skeuomorphism in Apple's iOS graphical user interface

Ambrose Curtis, University of Rhode Island


This work sets out to examine the visual rhetoric located within flat and skeuomorphic iterations of Apple’s iOS graphical user interfaces. I argue that design scholar Richard Buchannan is correct in his assertions regarding ethos, pathos, and logos in product design, but in this work I apply his ideas to Apple’s iOS graphical user interface. Buchannan suggests that much of the effectiveness of a product is based on that product’s ability to appeal to the user, by way of these Aristotelian proofs. This examination of ethos, pathos, and logos also calls upon the work of anthropologist Thomas J. Schlereth; specifically, his idea that people’s relationships to, and interpretations of objects are steeped in their relationships to the cultural and historical evolution of those objects. Based on these theoretical frameworks I am examining how the ethos, pathos, and logos embedded within skeuomorphic and flat iOS interfaces is directly tied to the historical, technological, and cultural evolution of OS interface design. This thesis argues that the embedding of the aforementioned Aristotelian appeals in flat and skeuomorphic iOS interfaces was a rhetorical strategy implemented by Apple, to enhance the persuasive appeal of its iOS interfaces. By examining these design techniques from this rhetorical perspective, I am looking to contribute new, but also concise perspectives to flat design/skeuomorphism discourses, which can be at times be multidirectional. I am also looking to contribute a rhetorical means by which future OS, and other technologies can be evaluated.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Ambrose Curtis, "Rhetoric of flat design and skeuomorphism in Apple's iOS graphical user interface" (2015). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1596415.