You may have noticed recently how subtle and neat mobile apps GUI, websites and even print ads are designed these days. The 3D looking candy buttons, bold beveled and embossed text are fading off the user interface and web design scene because of the new trend called Flat Design. Different reactions and perspectives are brought by this new style, but before you give your own take on this matter, here’s an in-depth look on this Flat Design fad.
What is Flat Design?
They are designs that display simplicity, neatness and from the name itself, it shows flatness. Basically, in this style, designs are stripped of gradients; pixel perfect shadows, textures and other effects that make a design object look real or 3 Dimensional.
The flat concept came from Swiss Style otherwise known as International Typographic Style. Popularized by Swiss designers in 1950’s, the style embraces layout cleanliness. It blends well with typography and commonly uses to the grid system for content alignment. Swiss style is used for prints in countries like Switzerland, Russia and Germany.
Below are some visual examples of flatly designed website and elements.
(Disclaimer: I do not own any of the thumbnails used, contact us if you own any of them.)
My Thoughts on Flat Design
On my own view, let me try to describe flat design and its components. This is not to provide new meaning to the term but to share my perspective and contribute to the subject matter.
I believe that this trend is an evolution from minimalism. Years back, minimalistic designs became a trend on graphic design. It is a use of simple designs that incorporates minimal details on a wide space or canvass. By definition and function, I believe that flat designs are branched from minimalism. Actually, one good description to flat design is ’minimalistic’.
This trend opens new doors towards creativity, profounder imagination and evolution. It sets a challenge to every designer to step up and hone their flat designs.
Now, why did I say that it is a template?
Personally, I believe that this style is too basic that many will come up with improved and heightened versions of this concept. Actually, many have already made their own concepts with Flat Designs as their reference. Some of which are the Long Shadow, 3D Flat, Flat with Drop shadow and Flat with Gradient.
More than a Fad
This concept is promising enough that big names like Microsoft and Apple are adapting to it. MS applied it on its recently released operating system Windows 8. On the other hand, Apple, just announced the release of their IOS 7 and the preview shows their shift from skeuomorphic to flat designs. This only proves that flat is a trend and more than a fad that is set to stay long term.
Flat Design VS Skeuomorphism
To fully understand Flat Design, it is good to know what designers are comparing it with. They say that it is a complete opposite of skeuomorphism. I tried to research for the definition of the term ‘skeuomorph’ online and here’s some that I found:
– ‘Is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure 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.’ (Wikipedia)
-‘An object or feature copying the design of a similar artefact in another material.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)
-‘An ornament or design representing a utensil or implement.’ (Merriam-Webster)
Now that we have an idea of both flat and skeuomorphic designs, the question is which is better? The dispute revolves around which is more suitable to be used for UI and web.
I agree to most designers and bloggers who said that it is on case to case basis. Of course, if the circumstance suggests for a 3D more realistic feel then the use of flat designs should be avoided.
An example to this is when designing a game interface. I can’t imagine games like DotA, Warcraft and Starcraft having flat designs as their GUI. Well, can you? Maybe you can, but it sure doesn’t look as appealing as it supposed to be like.
So it’s better to be careful when choosing your preference. Different circumstances and requirements demand for various styles that suit them well.