Jony Ive’s new “icon grid” is a guide meant to ensure that different apps’ icons look harmonious on the home screen. That’s a lofty goal. The issue of whether a grid can really accomplish that is complex; most designers think that non-block-based designs (so, not paragraphs of text, not photos, not headings) require a lot of “optical adjustment”. This is fancy talk for “tweak it so it looks right.”
To me this illustrates Ive’s history with hardware design: meticulous designs down to fractions of centimeters, built for rigid standards so machines and processes can eventually be reused across entire product lines.
In software, such exactness isn’t necessary and is perhaps, well, wrong.
Adjusting an icon design to the eye, not to meet a standard, costs you nothing to implement. Stray pixels don’t require new factory machines, new lines, or new processes.
But the hardware world, the world that must keep in mind factories and efficiency, is the world Ive is used to.
That said: this is a first iteration and Ive’s first major crack at software design. Soon he will realize standards can be flexed within the virtual, and icons will defined to fit the standards of the eye, not the standards of the factory line.