The Secret Behind The Rounded Squares That Make Up iOS Icons
As anyone who has ever spent even the smallest amount of time with an iPhone will tell you, app icons in iOS are all of the rounded square variety, and thats exactly how it has been since minute one of the iPhone’s release. Apple as a company just likes using rounded rectangles in all of its software, with even the chat bubbles used within iMessage featuring a decidedly rounded rectangular aesthetic. They are simply everywhere.
Anyone who thought that was just a case of Jony Ive or one of his designers liking rounded corners and deciding to run with it is actually quite wide off the mark. The real reason iOS and even the hardware it runs on uses a lot of rounded squares and rectangles? Steve Jobs.
Jobs had his fingers in everything going on at Apple when the iPhone was designed, and indeed, long before it. Going all the way back to the Apple Lisa, for example, Jobs was very keen on rounded rectangles. So much so, he badgered one of his top engineers to write software that could draw them. Bill Atkinson had just worked out how to make his software draw ovals and circles. Jobs wasn’t as impressed as everyone expected.
But something was bothering Steve Jobs. “Well, circles and ovals are good, but how about drawing rectangles with rounded corners? Can we do that now, too?”
“No, there’s no way to do that. In fact it would be really hard to do, and I don’t think we really need it”. I think Bill was a little miffed that Steve wasn’t raving over the fast ovals and still wanted more.
Steve suddenly got more intense. “Rectangles with rounded corners are everywhere! Just look around this room!”. And sure enough, there were lots of them, like the whiteboard and some of the desks and tables. Then he pointed out the window. “And look outside, there’s even more, practically everywhere you look!”. He even persuaded Bill to take a quick walk around the block with him, pointing out every rectangle with rounded corners that he could find.
And so we have it – arguably the first case of Steve Jobs’ obsession with rounded corners, and we are still seeing the fruit of that today.
Oh, and if there was ever a more Steve Jobs-ian thing for someone to do than that little anecdote, we don’t know what it is.