Blog: Secrets from the Chef

Physics still matter, even with special effects

Yegor GilyovAuthor: Yegor Gilyov
12 July 2007

Sharp-sighted Craig Hockenberry from the Iconfactory have spotted the inconsistency between the new 3D Dock and the old good Apple Human Interface Guidelines. Craig draws our attention to the fact that the sidelines of the Dock’s surface are sloping at different angles than the sidelines of the imaginary desk where the application icons are lying in the guidelines:

The floor displayed on the Dock does not use the perspective of the desk in front of you, nor does it appear as a shelf. Because there’s a difference between the floor angles and the traditional desktop icon angles, many icons look wrong.

Superpopular John Gruber (Daring Fireball) shares Craig’s anxiety:

You might say, Well, so what if the angle is a little different? The difference is that many existing icons now look “not quite right”. Top-notch icon designers sweat over each and every pixel. (Well, maybe not every pixel in the new 512 × 512 icons, but close.) The icon sections in the current HIG take this perfectionism into account; there’s an assumption that yes, Macintosh icons really should look perfect.

Enough, Craig and John! Before taking out fine measuring tools for the sake of verifying Leopard’s interface against the existing guidelines, let’s see if the HIG conceals any internal contradictions. We can see the TextEdit icon featured as an example in the guidelines. Does it use the perspective set by the imaginary desk? In other words, do the sheets of paper lie on the desk? It takes a few auxiliary lines to give a negative answer:

Apple HIG

The laws of perspective tell us that the sidelines of the sheet should cross on the same horizon as the sidelines of the desk.

However the troubles with perspective are not attributable solely to the designers from Cupertino. Redmond has also got something to worry about:

Windows Vista Icon Development Guidelines

If we extend these lines, they will not cross on one horizon. And it is also against the laws of perspective. Thanks to sharp-eyed Yegor Zhgun for his outsight.

It rumored that Microsoft have pirated designers from Apple to work on the icons for Windows Vista. Maybe such mistakes in the guidelines of both companies are the doings of the same person?

So we see that even standard icons of internal applications of Mac OS X do not always follow the laws of perspective described in the guidelines. Obviously, the authors of these icons do not reckon that they should be so deeply immersed into perfectionism.

However let’s assume for a second that all the icons are drawn in strict compliance with the guidelines. Will it help us in resolving this problem? Hardly, since the guidelines describe two different perspectives: perspective for application icons and perspective for 3D objects. There is no way we can place these two together to convince the viewer that they are standing on the same surface and share the common space:

Apple HIG

But what if the Dock accepted icons of just one type drawn against a single template? Would this help us produce a true 3D Dock? No way! The thing is that parallel lines should cross in one point according to the laws of perspective. I will give you an example. In Leopard’s Dock 3D icons are seemed to be placed on pads like the ones below:

wrong way

Where they should rather be placed on this kind of pads:

right way

It does not take a scientist to realize that in this case we would have to produce a unique icon for each location in the raw, which is hardly possible.

3D Dock has no right to live. But not because in Cupertino they drew sidelines at a different angle but rather because such Dock is impossible to draw without violating the laws of the Universe. And even the reality distortion field of Steve Jobs is useless here.

If you think I was short on arguments, stay tunes for the next post on: how to draw reflections of 3D objects.

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Comments

Yegor, all of your observations seem right on the money, especially the last one. It is totally true that icons sitting on a 3D Dock *should* obey the perspective of the entire span of the Dock and not just the tiny space they occupy.

I’ll go you one better though, not only would they have to observe this perspective, but technically, the perspective would have to change depending on if you had 3, 10 or 50 icons in the dock. The more icons in the Dock, the more subtly the perspective would have to change from icon to icon in order to respect the vanishing lines of the end caps.

Of course, this isn’t possible at all, and as such the entire notion of the 3D Dock just has not been well thought out by the folks at Apple.

Of course the folks in Redmond don’t have it any better. There is a wide range of perspective treatment in Vista icons as this small sample proves:

http://blogs.chron.com/techblog/archives/icons.jpg

Reply Gedeon, 12 July 2007

It struck me during the demo of Cover Flow that the application icons, which are drawn to appear 3D, looked particularly off when flattened to the edges.

It occurred to me then that it’s possible – just about – that Apple is gearing up for true 3D icons.

Which would fix all the Dock problems as well.

Reply Joel Fagin, 12 July 2007

Well, you could build your icon as a 3D model. Then the Dock could rotate it depending on where it was in the dock.

I would go that way, were I to design a 3D Dock. Of course, the ResEdit dudes would howl and gnash their teeth, but there would be some cool icons made once they made the leap to 3D.

Reply Rich Curtis, 12 July 2007

>It does not take a scientist to realize that in this case we would have to produce a unique icon for each location in the raw, which is hardly possible.

You’re assuming that these icons are still pixel-based and not vector based, which given Leopard’s resolution independence might not be true.

Regardless, as an artist, I still hate the 3D dock.

Reply jim m., 12 July 2007

When Steve first demoed the 3D dock I was hoping he’d be announcing 3D icons as well like the saved games on a PS2. That’d be the only way to do it right. Maybe next time.

Reply rob, 12 July 2007

“It does not take a scientist to realize that in this case we would have to produce a unique icon for each location in the raw, which is hardly possible.”

Not only would that be an insane waste of time and energy for minutiae, but also the “correct” dock you describe would not be attractive or as functional as the one they’ve created.

What great is that the dock (or any GUI element) isn’t bound to physics like the real world is. It’s great because things can be designed to be more functional or look better or be easier to use.

The “correct” dock you described doesn’t sound like an ideal solution. If it is, please explain why. You never answered the question of WHY having a correct-perspective dock would make it a better or more useable feature. Please explain.

And as far as pointing out that Apple violates its out HIG guidelines – that’s redundant. We all know that already. Look at iPhoto or Terminal or Calculator or QuickTime or iTunes or Safari… the list goes on. I’m not defending that. I’m just pointing out that this article doesn’t really make a good point. Push a little harder and let us know why using the correct perspective would make the dock more useable.

Reply Haussmann, 12 July 2007

Defending MS isn’t my usual MO, but I’m going to take exception to Yegor’s mismatched-horizon issue with that Windows notepad icon. Notice that one of the three lines is defined by only one point, and could actually be drawn at any arbitrary angle? Change its angle slightly and the two horizons match up perfectly.

Reply Darel Rex Finley, 12 July 2007

Well, they are *icons*. Although the new coverflow does, indeed, actively change the perspective of Finder items, it is still an abstracted interface, and not a 3-d landscape we are navigating in.

Reply Michael Z, 12 July 2007

“It rumored that Microsoft have pirated designers from Apple to work on the icons for Windows Vista. Maybe such mistakes in the guidelines of both companies are the doings of the same person?”

um, you don’t have to look very far…

http://iconfactory.com/design/detail/windows_vista

Reply Raj, 12 July 2007

Haussmann is right, it doesn’t have to be 100% consistent or even possible in reality to be usable.

Then again looking at those messy vista icons which look like they could have been drawn by 50 different people who had no guidelines at all… So maybe it should be enforced

Reply dnm, 12 July 2007

Good work, Yegor!

@Haussmann: All of these problems with the Dock go towards readability of the icon. Things like perspective mismatch, shadows, and reflections actually make the icons harder to read. In Leopard, there is too much visual noise at the bottom of the screen.

And if the icon is harder to read, then it’s harder to use. Remove all the special effects and you have a more usable Dock.

What’s funny about the reflections in the Dock is that they actually detract from the content above. Unless you’ve used the Leopard beta, you don’t know how distracting it is to see a paragraph of reflected text while reading at the bottom of the screen. Like in a web browser…

-ch

Reply Craig Hockenberry, 12 July 2007

The rest of Leopard is going for a flatter, more 2D effect. Why is the dock ruining that?

Plus, the worst part of the dock is the little reflection thingies that replace the black triangles. They’re just too subtle. I don’t want to be always deciphering gentle clues as to what my computer’s doing.

@Haussmann

Things that look weird and unnatural are hard to use. I’ve been using Leopard for a month now, and the dock still grabs my eye as just being off several times a day.

Reply john, 12 July 2007

Get rid of the Dock and the worries and bring back the MultiFinder. It took up less space, performed the same job, and didn’t assert itself into my screen space unbidden. (And it didn’t bounce, either.)

Reply Metryq, 12 July 2007

@Craig

You do understand the problems of reflection even if you don’t have the Leopard Beta, if you have an iPhone. The gratuitous reflection of cover art in the iPod app distracts from both the original cover, and the controls that are translucent enough to show some of the reflected cover underneath! Why, oh God was this thought to be a good idea?

Reply TomR, 12 July 2007

1) People often drone on about how this or that visual effect makes things less usable (icon outlines being enclosed in the same oval buttons, reflections, whatever). This is often based on logic but not really on data. Fact is, the human visual system is often completely happy to deal with things like this because it expects them. The reflections create symmetry and symmetry is a search cue for humans, for example. Don’t make blanket statements about how this or that thing is “bad” based on some vague notion of it’s complication: you’ll often be wrong.

2) While the 3D dock isn’t proper 3D, I don’t think it matters in the end. It doesn’t need to have proper perspective as long as it accomplishes it’s goal of putting the dock on a separate depth plane from the desktop. Just like many instances of simuluting 3D cues on a 2D screen, they don’t have to be perfectly correct. Another example? The shadows utilized by app windows are there for the same purpose and they don’t follow perfect rules of 3D depth ordering either (distance from the desktop, light source, how a real shadow looks). But they still work.

3) I believe Apple’s intention is that *all* icons are meant to be “standing up” on the dock (like the rocket icon). So even “2D” icons should appear as a 3D surface with a picture of a 2D icon. This follows from there “make everything pop out by being 3D philosophy”. I don’t work for Apple, but I’m positive they don’t intend icons to look like they are lying flat on the dock like a piece of paper on a desk.

Sure: Apple should make the horizon lines match because there’s no reason not to, but Apple’s response could be “It just doesn’t matter”. I guess if it bugs people enough to write blog posts then you could say it matters, but don’t imply fake human usability data to justify it. (with all due respect, no snarkiness intended)

Reply James, 12 July 2007

I have to agree with Haussmann, psuedo 3d is perfectly acceptable and looking at the minutiae of the angles isn’t a compelling argument. I can understand that some simply feel it looks off kilter, but analyzing it down to what the perfect 3d perspective should be is going too far, imo.

The icons in my dock are rendered in many different perspectives anyway, many of them are a straight on view—e.g. iChat, Quicktime. Safari and Mail look more rotated to me than the “standard” perspective used in TextEdit, iCal and iWeb. Pages and Keynote do something entirely different as does iTunes. And that’s only the Apple icons!

I haven’t used the Leopard beta, so perhaps my feeling will change, but the new bg looks pretty good to me. I still see the icons “hovering” on a 2d plane perpendicular to the new dock background (“floor”), which may be why the differing perspectives don’t bother me. It’s not real 3d, it’s psuedo 3d and it looks pretty good in the movies on Apple’s site. (If only I could say the same about the transparent menu bar.)

Reply Senioré Soosy, 12 July 2007

the amusing thing here is, you know which icons look best in the leopard dock, regardless of perspective angles?

adobe’s.

i think i’m going to go throw myself in front of a truck now. ;-)

Reply Raj, 12 July 2007

As a designer and not a physics guy, I hate the glass reflection design phase we are going through. We will look back at this time the same way we think of those gelled Apple pills they used to use for buttons and then everyone and their mother used for everything and usually used it poorly.

A little reflection here can be done well to connote dimension, but with this new dock and dragging docs under it is just silly eye candy and it’s not subtle, but wham! Apple should err on the side of subtlety and the current dock in their demos is just too much.

I hope there will be a way to turn off some off this crap.

Reply Renaud, 12 July 2007

Great analysis. I wonder if the dock perspective is something that Apple expects to work on between now and final release in a few months. I can only hope so, as getting this kind of detail right is what they often do best.

Reply Todd Sieling, 12 July 2007

Apple’s crazy dock was also covered at Watching Apple, which discussed the conflicting perspectives.

Reply John Blackburn, 12 July 2007

Great job. Is it just me, or are alot of things coming out of Cupertino lately not making a lot of sense (iPhone AJAX ‘SDK’ I’m looking at you).

Reply david wogan, 13 July 2007

I say if it looks cool do it. Physics? We’re drawing things on a flat surface!

OMG look at the Firefox icon! There’s no way a fox could curl around an entire planet like that!!!

Gimme a break. It’s a nice fancy effect with reflections and other superfluous special effects. I say it’s yummy.

Reply ryan, 13 July 2007

i work in visual effects as a 2D compositor and one thing i know is that sometimes effects don’t have to be true to physics (lighting/scale/etc) to look ‘right’. the job of the effects artist is to make something visually compelling in order to convey the story to the viewer. as James and others said in comments, there are many things in the Apple UI that aren’t true to physics, yet work to convey space.

in vfx, we have use the term “2.5D” to describe the use of a 2D element to create 3D spatial relationships. it is important to realize that at OS X 10.5, the Apple UI is still in a transitional phase between its Classic 2D environment and what will eventually become entirely true 3D UI. an example of 2.5D is CoverFlow – where it appears as though objects (albums) rotate in 3D space as they move along the x-axis. however, they really only shift between 2 rotational positions – orthographic and rotated approx. 45 degrees. as they move further along the x-axis, their angled perspective stays the same in relation to the camera. a further rotation is faked with the use of lighting change (fading off to black). it’s highly effective and will have to suffice until our processors can handle the realtime constant manipulation of 3D geometry. but give it time, because if you sit back and watch how things progress, it can actually be kind of fascinating.

i hope that didn’t come off as patronizing.

Reply lonelysandwich, 13 July 2007

Dear friends, many thanks for the rich feedback!

@Gedeon: I agree completely to your consideration about the icons quantity. As regards Vista… Whereas this sample makes me weep, your original work for Vista is awesome!

@jim m.: vector icons don’t solve this problem. 3D models do, but… @Joel Fagin, @Rich Curtis, @rob: true 3D icon is just a vapour. Each icon render requires a huge amount of retouching work.

@Haussmann, @dnm, @Senioré Soosy: thank you for your opinion. However, I don’t see any reason to make the “pseudo” 3D dock since the “correct” 3D dock is impossible. I believe the old good Tiger flat dock is a good enough compromise between realism and conditionality.

@Darel Rex Finley: you are right, the notepad icon is just perfect. But at least one of the dotted lines is wrong. This line is a part of MS Guidelines as well as the sample icon!

@Michael Z: exactly! But the new Dock looks like 3-d landscape. It leads to troubles.

@Raj: the original work by the Iconfactory is perfect. Obvously, somebody else produced this nightmare as well as mistakes in the guidelines.

Sure Adobe CS3 icons are the best in any environment :)

@Craig: many thanks!

@john: did they kill the black triangles?? Really?

@Metryq: I know yet another solution: bring back Windows :)

@James: thank you for your opinion. However, I cannot accept your arguments. The pseudo-reflections look absolutely unnatural. It’s just disturbing.

By the way, Apple should not make the horizon lines match: it’s no good while all the parallel lines don’t cross in one point.

@Renaud, @Todd Sieling: I share your hopes.

@John Blackburn: thank you for the link!

@david wogan: thanks!

@ryan: I don’t object to special effects… within reasonable limits.

@lonelysandwich: thank you for your opinion. I accept your logic in general, but cannot agree with this particular case. CoverFlow is attractive, but pseudo 3D dock with pseudo reflections looks disturbing…

Stay tuned!

Reply yegor, 13 July 2007

“3D Dock has no right to live. But not because in Cupertino they drew sidelines at a different angle but rather because such Dock is impossible to draw without violating the laws of the Universe.”

The GUI universe has its own laws. We’re talking about a place where windows of information float in space. Efforts toward consistency with the material universe should be critically examined for relevance. BumpTop is a good example of how little we gain from pursuing realism in GUIs. Lots of “oohs and ahs” but zero impact. Personally, I prefer to enjoy the freedom of pixels over atoms and let them play in their own circles.

Reply Ryan Singer, 13 July 2007

Eventually, all icons in desktops should be true 3D models, and thus they could be rendered appropriately such that their perspective matches that of their context. I expect this to happen in the next 3 years, sooner if more people are aware of the potential for improvement here. Most icons these days are pre-renderings from 3D models anyhow, thus I don’t see the point of not just using the actual 3D models themselves, especially now that high quality 3D rendering is so cheap.

Reply Ben, 13 July 2007

@Ryan Singer: you are right, the GUI universe has its own laws. But in my opinion the 3D Dock isn’t an organic part of the clean and simple Mac OS X GUI universe. It looks like renegade who wants to be a part of the real world but can’t do it gracefully.

After all, I guess there’s no need to argue value of simplicity for 37signals :) The new Dock is more complicated than the old one. Without any reason.

Reply yegor, 13 July 2007

I’m more annoyed by the stupid reflection than by the icon perspective’s issues of Leopard’s Dock. A solution that is more coherent with the semi-transparent menu bar, in my opinion, would be to apply a higher degree of transparency in the Dock as well, like that haxie called ClearDock (or something). It would make for a more elegant desktop, I think.

Cheers,
RM

Reply Riccardo Mori, 13 July 2007

Maybe the future IS about real 3D icons, ones where you can twirl around, has a front, back and sides and will always in perspective based on a global view port angle. But before that day comes, mock 3D icons on a mock 3D space is fine by me.

Reply edward, 13 July 2007

Here’s a graphic explanation of why Yegor’s criticism of Windows’s notepad icon is unwarranted: http://alienryderflex.com/persp2.gif

Reply Darel Rex Finley, 13 July 2007

Yegor — I just saw your comment about my post. Thanks! :)

Reply Darel Rex Finley, 13 July 2007

Apple is following the money. Unless you’re a designer or a programmer, most people don’t give a *** about correct perspective.

I’ve been programming 3d for over 15 years and I can say that it’s not always the best way to convey graphical information.

Around 2003, all digital audio plug-in apps started using 3d-rendered (usually in Lightwave or 3DMax) interfaces. Now, thanks to Ableton (www.ableton.com) we’re seing a return to 2d + 4 colors. As a result, their UI looks very simple and to the point. Love it.

Reply Nick, 13 July 2007

“The laws of perspective tell us that the sidelines of the sheet should cross on the same horizon as the sidelines of the desk.”

Yes, iff we assume the sheet and the desk to reside in parallel planes, and iff we assume that by ‘a horizon’ you mean an ideal line (there is only one horizon, no such thing as ‘a horizon’). Which are very reasonable assumption, it’s a flat sheet lieing on a flat surface that can be expected to be level.

“If we extend these lines, they will not cross on one horizon. And it is also against the laws of perspective.”

Utter nonsense! In that second example, these pairs of lines reside in completely different planes, which are not parallel at all. The concept of a horizon doesn’t even begin to figure into this. The laws of perspective are thus: Parallel lines converge towards the same vanishing point. Lines that reside in parallel planes converge towards vanishing points that lie on a line. Iff these planes are level, that line is the horizon. Lines that are not related in any such way converge towards vanishing points that are all over the place.

The example doesn’t violate any of these laws. You haven’t found a flaw there.

Reply nex, 13 July 2007

Next thing you know, after rotatable reflectable 3D icons are all the rage, scratch and sniff won’t be far behind!

Reply Ole Factory, 13 July 2007

Many of what we consider to be the classic ‘masterpieces’ from Italian art of the Renaissance period combine several different perspectives in one work.

DY

Reply David Young, 13 July 2007

Okay..

I was formally trained as a draftsman. I know as much about the techniques and uses of perspective as any artist out there, and my training required me to use those techniques with repeatable and measurable accuracy. I also know the techniques which are used as alternatives to perspective, like isometric and axonometric projections, and vanishing-line perspective (sometimes known as a glide).

My training included the knowledge of when NOT to use those various techniques. Single-point perspective is only useful for displaying objects within about 30 degrees of the central viewing line, for instance. Beyond that — and certainly beyond 45 degrees — the distortions start to look unnatural. Two-point perspective has similar limits. The upshot is that perspective is a useful technique for displaying objects which are clustered in a fairly narrow range from side to side, and distributed at various distances from the viewer.

That profile doesn’t match a computer desktop. On a desktop, you have a collection of objects that are all roughly the same distance from the viewer, distributed widely from side to side.

In that situation, a draftsman would give up on perspective and use another technique. A glide (multiple vanishing points spaced along the horizon line) is a perfectly acceptable way to handle the problem. It minimizes the distortion of any specific element, it distributes the distortion equally among all elements, it provides ENOUGH distortion to give readable depth cues for each element, and it produces a decent overall view.

The fundamental flaw in your reasoning appears in the very title of your article: the art of collapsing three-dimensional spaces onto two-dimensional planes is not merely a question of physics. All physics does is guarantee that the collapsed representation will contain a certain amount of angular and distance distortion. Choosing a set of display conventions that minimize unwanted distortions while still providing appropriate depth cueing is not a matter of physics.. it’s a communication issue. Both the creator and the viewer need to agree to a common set of assumptions.

All you’ve done here is complain that Apple didn’t choose classical one-point perspective (which would be a lousy tool for the job at hand), then deny that any other set of display conventions can be acceptable.

I’m sorry, but you’re just plain wrong.

Reply Mike Stone, 13 July 2007

@Riccardo Mori: I agree, the reflections are really stupid.

@Darel Rex Finley: Thank you for the competent illustration :)

@Nick: thank you for your observation. I hope we will be seing a return to 2D in Mac OS XI (eleven).

@nex: no nonsence. The planes are different, but all the lines are horizontal. So, these pairs of parallel lines should cross on the horizon. Please see the accurate correction by @Darel Rex Finley.

@David Young: I believe that modern GUI designers don’t have to follow approaches of the Renaissance period :)

Reply yegor, 14 July 2007

@Mike Stone: many thanks for your lecture! I studied the laws of perspective at school fifteen years ago… live and learn!

Unfortunately I can’t find anything known as “vanishing-line perspective” or “glide perspective” using Google. However, I hope I understand your idea. Okay… we have a collection of icons with individual vanishing points spaced along the horizon. One of my illustrations depicts this idea, doesn’t it? One horizon, multiple vanishing point. I accept this approach in the old good Tiger Dock. However, what about the floor displayed on the new 3D Doc? Should its vanishing point lie on the same horizon? What’s your opinion?

Finally, just cast a glance at this screenshot. Some objects (the calendar, the address book, the photos…) look strange. They aren’t lying or standing on the floor. They are in the air. Only one object are standing on the floor: the trash. But look at the reflection…

Reply yegor, 14 July 2007

The perspective of the dock and the shadowing bothers me, yes. But my biggest gripe is the reflection setup they have going on. Reflecting flat icons results in a very unrealistic distortion. Simply taking an object and flipping it upside-down does not make a believable reflection. This is a mistake I see a lot of amateur designers make; they take a product and give it a flip and assume it’s a reasonable reflection, when in fact it makes for an image that just looks “off.”

I could live with the angle of the dock and the odd shadows on the icons, but for the love of peet fix or remove the reflections, Apple!

I understand that creating auto-generated reflections for objects that are flat is pretty difficult. On some objects (like the trash can) the distortion can be easily fixed by pushing the reflection up a little bit so as to cut off the point of separation.

On other objects (like the calendar), the reflection is way off and could be fixed by duplicating the icon, placing it behind the main icon, and nudging it to the bottom-left a little bit (without flipping it). This would make a somewhat believable representation of a flat calendar sitting on a shiny surface.

So I guess my point is that it’s too difficult to control the angles of icons that 3rd parties make, and it’s also difficult to work with the myriad of icons Apple has made themselves. So they ought to ditch icon reflections on the whole.

Reply Ryan, 17 July 2007

a simple solution…use DragThing :)
It’s better than any version of the dock anyways.

Reply tim, 23 July 2007

There are many creative types such as Graphic Designers that have chosen the Apple Mac because it is unfussy. When you work on creative projects on a regular basis you often want to work in a space that is uncluttered and free of unnecessary visual references. The whole idea of 3D rendered icons and new Apple’s new desktop interface completely ignores the designer’s need to remove visual clutter from their workspace. It doesn seem like a rash decision on Apple’s part to try and cram in a bit more ‘newness’ into their next OS.

Reply Boico, 25 July 2007

While people have pointed out that the reflections are by far the larger issue, I think they are also potentially easier to fix. Icons in Mac OS X already store a number of images within one file or resource fork. (For proof, just open an ICNS file in preview.) Basically, different situations do, indeed, already have different images associated with them.

Which leads to a possibility — images with hard reflections (and appropriate shadows) could be associated with a “dock” context, and reflection-less counterparts with “flat” contexts. Of course, this does nothing for perspective, including reflections in Cover Flow.

However, the use of perspective isn’t really new. Icons on the 10.4 dock could be considered to be in perspective space — arranged in an arc facing inwards. This is essentially a panorama, much like a large group portrait in, for example, a gymnasium. The panorama solution works well with a rectangular background precisely because a realistic background would not. Whereas the arc of objects is stretched into a straight line, the “gymnasium backdrop” would be distorted into a cylinder.

The problem with the perspective dock is that Apple can’t have it both ways. Overlaying a panorama with single-point perspective, especially with the wonky reflections, creates a subconsciously disturbing effect. In essence, while a fudged abstraction or conceit combining three-dimensional objects with a two-dimensional composition of windows can work well (and has for quite some time), it falls apart when it overextends or blatantly contradicts itself.

The “3D Dock,” as it is, would work if all the icons were documents or [non-HIG] Adobe applications, in much the same way that Cover Flow does with inherently flat album covers. Alternately, the existing “2D [i.e. cylindrical] Dock” works with the existing three-dimensional icons, precisely because of its level of abstraction.

The problem with the “3D Dock” is not inherently its flawed perspective. The problem is that it conflicts with and “breaks” nearly all existing icons, particularly application icons following Apple’s existing HIG. If the dock were to use hard shadows and reflections provided by the icon designers and use the defined perspective angle, it would be passable, though arguably not ideal.

Essentially, what I can see happening (in order of decreasing probability) is (a) Apple maintaining the beta dock while leaving 3D icons till 10.6, ignoring the HIG and peoples’ complaints; (b) Apple silently fixing the dock angle and leaving the reflections and shadows to icon designers; (c) Apple doing (a), revising the HIG to make themselves “right” and telling people to “deal with it” as they’ve had to with every other unpopular change; or (d) [completely unlikely] Apple reverting to the flat dock.

Reply John Hupp, 6 August 2007

Even if the angles were right, the effect is still dire.

Reply BOB SMACKOFF, 26 August 2007

The thing that I find *really* distracting about the new dock is that it’s own internal perspective is broken. The vanishing point of the of the two side edges is completely different to the one of the divider between the left and right sides of the dock.

Now that I’ve noticed it I can’t un-notice it. All that’s left for me to do is hide the dock and find a new way to work. And find a replacement for the broken Stacks implementation.

Reply Nick Tidey, 17 September 2007

Yes they must fix this nonsense and more:
Get rid of blue blured hole for active apps, what a shame (i feel some Vistish shit in this)!

Reply Nubizus, 22 September 2007

Your argument about the piece of paper laying on the desk is completely illogical. The lines of the sheet of paper on the desk would meet with the edges of the desk if the piece of paper meant to be lying on the desk straight on, parallel to it. The TextEdit icon is clearly designed to have the paper laying on the desk at an angle, crooked. By your logic, that pen is completely out of perspective too. You might be right that the paper isn’t drawn in the right perspective, but not for the reason you gave.

Reply Bart, 5 October 2007

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