Ownable user interface elements are as much a part of Brand as color, type, and messaging. Flipboard owns the “flip gesture”, the pinch is synonymous with Apple, and the new app Clear has gained traction through their simple swipe-to-complete-task. This UI becomes ownable through additive and bespoke functionality to an app or product.
Yet recently I came across an example of reverse engineering where the UI was re-worked to match the visual cues of the existing brandmark, rather than the functionalities of the brand. Netflix recently sponsored an ad takeover of the Grooveshark homepage and arched the search box to be visually representative of their typemark.
This execution falls short because it does not add any usability that is reflective of the Netflix brand. They have merely mimicked the arch in the Netflix type mark. In doing so they have messed with one of the holy grails of UI design, the search bar, and confused the user.
At least the search results didn’t come back with Netflix’s “you may like these” selections, because my Neil Young request would have come back with Young Buck.