Screw the Skeuomorph!

Used to help translate the real world into the digital realm, skeuomorphs should be abandoned in Web3 and the metaverse instead be a place where anything goes, says Rick Chant, ECD and co-founder at We Are Pi

If my avatar doesn’t have legs, why do I need shoes? Why does every store in Decentraland have neat rows of rails with coat hangers and changing rooms with curtains? Why did the Kaws exhibition in Fortnite take place in a building with a roof where picture frames hung on walls?

Why, in a universe with no limits, no gravity and only the boundless imagination of its creators do things and products and experiences look exactly like they do in our world, the so-called Real World? It’s because of a phenomenon known as skeuomorphing.

Skeuomorphing exists when a new object retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. A skeuomorph employs elements that, while essential to the original object, serve no pragmatic purpose in the new system.

Skeuomorphs surround us. Modern architecture emulates classical buildings with non-structural columns embedded in walls. Electric candles flicker in restaurants. That plastic table, patterned so it looks like wood. The alloy wheels so beloved by the Fast & the Furious with their elaborate yet entirely decorative ‘wheel spokes’.