A skeuomorph /ˈskjuːəmɔrf/ is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to structures that were necessary in the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of a binding on a paper desk calendar.
Skeuomorph is compounded from the Greek: skeuos, σκεῦος (container or tool), and morphê, μορφή (shape). The term has been applied to material objects since 1890 and is now also used to describe computer and mobile interfaces.
A similar alternative definition of skeuomorph is “a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique.” This definition is broader in scope, as it can be applied to design elements that still serve the same function as they did in a previous design.
Skeuomorphs are deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, or are simply habits too deeply ingrained to wash away. Donald Norman, an academic in the fields of design, usability, and cognitive science, describes cultural constraints, interactions with the system in question that are learned only through culture, that give rise to skeuomorphism. Norman also popularized perceived affordances, where the user can tell what an object provides or does based on its appearance, which skeuomorphism can make easy.