Say Hello to Mac OS Syrah

When Apple released iOS 7, people began to wonder when Mac OS would take on its own flat and gradient-ridden look and feel. Weeks before Apple’s 2014 WWDC, the online community got a glimpse of one possibility, courtesy of German designer Danny Giebe.

While Danny Giebe was scanning and organizing imagery in Apple’s iPhoto, and also doing some work in iMovie, he noticed the differences between each applications’ Mac OS X user interface. Why didn’t iPhoto have the same all-black interface shell that iMovie did? Preferring iMovie’s all-black look and feel, Giebe set out to design his own version of an all-black iPhoto, and soon came to the conclusion that he was onto something much bigger. What about an entire redesign of OS X? And what would this successor to Mavericks be called?

What’s in a Name? Redesigning Mac OS X

Since Mountain Lion, Apple’s Craig Federighi confessed that Apple was running out of cat names. Starting with Mavericks, Mac OS 10.9, Apple shifted to using California-themed names, such as 10.9’s Mavericks, named after a popular surfing spot near Pillar Point Harbor in Northern California. When Mavericks was previewed at Apple’s 2013 World Wide Developers Conference, people began making guesses about subsequent Mac OS names, hoping for everything from Hollywood to Sacremento to Fleetwood. Who wouldn’t want their own Fleetwood Mac? The Apple and Fleetwood Mac connection may happen with an assist from Jimmy Iovine, producer of albums for U2 and Fleetwood Mac, who could come to Apple’s executive team as part of the Beats and Apple merger.

As Giebe dug into Mac OS naming research on his own, he found hints that pointed to Mac OS Syrah, which he used when naming his Mac OS X 10.10 redesign. Like Hollywood, Fleetwood, and other Californian names, Syrah has not yet been confirmed as Mac OS 10.10’s name, although as far back as October 2013, The Guardian had reported that both Cabernet and Syrah were on the table at one point.

To Flatten or Not to Flatten?

Although Mac OS 10.10 hasn’t been previewed, many suspect that Apple will flatten it out to bring its look and feel closer to what’s currently offered in iOS 7. Apple took steps to remove the pseudo-leather look in its Calendar for Mac OS X Mavericks and while designers were especially happy about that change, other apps retained traces of skeuomorphism, a way of designing interfaces to show physical properties in their digital manifestation. Both the Notes and Reminders apps still have textures and shadowing that allude to something tactile, like a notebook or leather planner.

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Giebe set out to remove the skeuomorphic look for his Mac OS 10.10, using iOS 7 as a place to scaffold up from. “The most obvious visual cues from iOS 7 can be seen in my Message/iChat concept, as I used the speech bubbles from iOS 7. I added the translucent effect to the toolbars in the first version and also to iPhoto. I also changed the system font, based on iOS7, from Lucida Grande to Neue Helvetica.”

He worked feverishly to complete the designs, beginning on a Friday and finishing by Sunday, as part of what he deemed “a weekend project.” He worked entirely in Sketch 2 from Bohemian Coding. Now at version 3, Sketch has become a go-to interface design tool, especially for those who were accustomed to using the erstwhile Adobe Fireworks, which was last offered as part of CS6, but is not offered in the Creative Cloud suite.

What’s Next for Mac OS?

Since completing the designs and releasing them online at places such as Behance and Dribbble, much of the criticism Giebe has received revolves around the simplicity of his designs. But that’s the point: iOS is simple, and what if Mac OS became simple as well. Giebe has also received his fair share of positive feedback:

I’m surprised that so many people have seen it, and I didn’t expect this huge response when I was creating it. I did the work in one weekend, more as an experiment and just to do something different than I normally do. I’ve since received emails for new jobs, interview opportunities, and my Twitter just exploded. The concept got posted all around the web and I got a Twitter reach of more than 2 million in a day. I was thankful for every single comment, both positive and negative, and took them into account.

Giebe has high hopes of taking the feedback he’s received and implementing more changes, and even expanding Syrah to include Reminders, Photo Booth, and the Dashboard with new Widgets included. But he’s acquired so many paying jobs since getting attention with Syrah, that he doesn’t have time for any side projects.

and speaking of side gigs, in 2012 Andrew Kim conducted a redesign while studying at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, CA. Although Kim’s was for Apple’s nemesis—Microsoft. Kim redesigned Microsoft’s brand identity and marketing, giving the Redmond-based company a space age look and feel that pointed to the future. Like Giebe’s concepts, Kim’s received a lot of online traffic and Twitter mentions, with Kim being featured at Brand New. Having written his own ticket with the Microsoft side project, Kim has been working for Microsoft full-time.

When asked about the possibility of one day working for Apple, a company he’s demonstrated his patronage for, Giebe would leap at the chance. Having read Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs from cover to cover, Giebe has an understanding of Apple’s corporate culture, as well as its educational mission. “I would like to be on Apple’s education team to create new products for students and teachers.” Maybe he’ll get his wish.

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