Drop Shadow Decade

Spiegel and Focus covers from December 7, 2009
It is not easy to admit: this week I regard Focus to have its finger closer on the pulse of time than DER SPIEGEL. The makers of the latter one remind their readers that the years after 9/11 were “wasted” and the world has to learn from the almost-decade of brainlessness. Focus calls it a decade of terror, crisis and coffee shops; also a nervous one and promises a special retrospect. Certainly true. And yet most of it can be regarded as commonplace and I would not mention it here, if there was no deeper drop-shadow-related truth in it.

DER SPIEGEL selects the so often seen 9/11 scenario as most important and spreads it on the whole page, except three smaller pictures placed at the very bottom. Focus shows the same scenario, but arranges its “pictures of the decade” as Cover Flow.

Apple’s way to flip through your music lately is very fashionable among print designers, as it seems. For example, last summer in Germany there was an advertising campaign of Lucky Strike that used the same principle. In a Cover Flow manner the most appealing Lucky Strike packs of the last two decades were shown. See my post from July 31.

But it is not the dacede of Cover Flow (yet), I’d rather call it the Decade of the Drop Shadow. When Microsoft added “XP” to the name of its back then new operating system and Apple released OS “X” in 2001, a paradigm change in graphical user interface design was on its way. Interfaces no longer had to be tidy and usable only, since 2001 they were designed to enchant their users, to delight them and to be experienced. And with this new core requirement (and the technical possibilities) came the rise of the digital drop shadow effect.

Now the Decade of the Drop Shadow draws to a close. More and more information and general knowledge constitutes itself not via TV or printed media but by graphical user interfaces like browsers, news readers, map applications and software on mobile phones. The questions about the last decade should not be, if it was “wasted” or “nervous”. More of interest are the questions about the future: will there be a second decade of drop shadows? Or will there be a decade of gloss and reflection? How will the usage of drop shadows be democratized and will drop-shadow-less designs and interfaces rise to high culture or vanish in subculture?

P.S. If someone finds more references to Cover Flow (especially in media besides web or graphical user interfaces) please let me know here. Thanks.

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