An exclusive first look at Tweetbot Neue

There is no Tweetbot Neue. I invented it. It is fake. I will now explain why I did it.

iOS 7 looks like crap. Any good design sense Apple previously had was kicked out of the company when Scott Forstall was fired. The new home screen icons are especially terrible, with their strict adherence to a Jony Ive-designed grid blinding the designers to the fact that they just look awful.

Many people love the design of iOS 7—or claim to, at least—and have said they couldn’t wait for their favorite apps to adopt the style. As an experiment, I gave Tweetbot fans a taste of the iOS 7 treatment to see how they’d respond. Things went exactly as expected.

The account

Tweetbot Neue profile

Tweetbot Neue profile

On a whim, I created a fake Twitter account called @TweetbotNeue. I linked the profile to the Tapbots website and set the location as “In development.” The bio simply said “Soon.”

Now it was time for the profile photo. I decided to create a new, intentionally-awful version of the current Tweetbot icon that was made with iOS 7 in mind.

The icon

Tweetbot Neue icon

Tweetbot Neue icon

With iOS 7, home screen icons are designed using a specific color palette. Unfortunately, this palette is gaudy and awful. Despite this, I sampled colors directly from the icons in iOS 7 to create this icon. The blue background is identical to that of the Weather icon flipped 180°, and the “beak” uses the same colors as the Music icon, also flipped 180°. Only the inside of the mouth uses colors not explicitly included in iOS 7’s palette. Instead, I used a simple radial gradient that goes from black to a shade of red just slightly darker than the outside of the mouth.

The idea behind the Tweetbot Neue icon design

The idea behind the Tweetbot Neue icon design

In designing the icon, I did not try to stick to Jony Ive’s magic grid. That’s not to say I wasn’t close, though. The mouth ends up somewhere around the midpoint line, and if the eyes were a little higher they’d probably touch the larger circle. Still, that was unintentional.

This icon is far from perfect, and intentionally so. There is some aliasing on the curves that I was far too lazy to bother fixing. I did this in GIMP in a few minutes. I considered going into more detail, especially on the mouth, but I had to keep stopping and reminding myself that iOS 7 icons don’t use that much detail.

The tweet

A few days ago, Tapbots designer Mark Jardine tweeted an image that he had created, which featured some Tweetbot imagery and the phrase “the journey continues.” Most people assumes this was in reference to a Tweetbot update, and many noted that the image’s color scheme seemed to draw inspiration for iOS 7’s color palette (although I did not bother to verify that, it does seem to use a few of the same colors).

I pulled the phrase “the journey continues” from that, added iOS 7’s release timeframe (“this fall”) and posted a one-sentence tweet. Someone found and retweeted it at 11pm the next day, and from there everything just went downhill.

The reaction

The reaction was exactly as I expected. People couldn’t wait to get their hands on this cruddy icon.

Not everyone loved the idea of “Tweetbot Neue”, thankfully. There were many who were opposed to the icon, and some who were even opposed to the idea of paying for an iOS 7 update (something that was never even hinted at by the account).

Eventually, Mark Jardine stepped in to point out that the account was fake and that he would never design such a bad icon. Ironically he posited that perhaps Paul Haddad, the Tapbots iOS developer, had created the account as a joke.

That didn’t seem to stop people from assuming the account was real, though. The account continued to gain followers after Mark debunked it, and at the time of this writing (1:50 PM Thursday on the East Coast), the account has 454 followers (up over 150 since Mark Jardine tweeted that it was fake) and is on ten different lists. That means that even three hours after Mark told everyone the account was fake, it continues to spread.

The following tweets (and more) were all recieved after Mark debunked the account.

Here’s a personal favorite. This guy doesn’t want to pay again for Tweetbot, and says he’s glad he stuck with Twitterrific (which charged for the latest update, mind you). The good guys behind Twitterrific actually linked the user to Mark Jardine’s profile (I think they were aiming for the tweet where he said the account was fake).

Another personal favorite:

The lesson

The lesson here is pretty simple: you people don’t really know design. You just get excited over certain designers. Apple makes some shoddy icons and you all defend them. Tapbots allegedly makes a shoddy icon and you can’t wait to get your hands on it. I bet that if any of the people listed above who liked the Tweetbot Neue icon had known I made it in GIMP as a joke, they’d have said “no way Tapbots would ever design something like that.”

Remember when the same would have been said about Apple’s iOS 7 icons?

The end

I’m not going to keep using the Tweetbot Neue account. I have no reason to. The experiment is over. It was, in my opinion, a resounding success.

Apologies to Mark Jardine for ruining your icon (which is one of my favorite parts of Tweetbot). I hate my version, too.