Does this make me look flat?

Posted on May 12, 2013


The flat design approach is booming; over the last couple of years we’ve seen designers leave behind the flashy, rounded gradients of Web 2.0 and hurtle towards simple, spacious and dignified output.

Panels of carefully desaturated colour stack to form well-paced sections of content on websites. Grasp-at-a-glance, two-dimensional icons are used to sum up commercial benefits or offered services. White space is now joined by apricot space, teal space and mustard space.

Apple has surprisingly stayed behind the pack and stuck to their skeuomorphic guns: their iPhone apps involve plenty of synthesised real-life objects, like leather diary covers, ripped-edges and tape reels. Whilst this has no doubt opened up and made digital applications for everyone and his grandma easier to use, these cute, tangible interfaces certainly aren’t progressive from an interface design point of view.

Not everything is retro in iOS

Luckily services like ‘Blue’, a deliciously simple weather app and ‘Clear’, for writing lists, show how it can be done on the iPhone. Both can be used with incredible ease, it takes only a swipe or two for operation, and feature flat colour to signify air temperature or list item priority. The user isn’t bombarded with service options, add-ons or gimmicks, instead a single, useful function is carried out well, works intuitively and looks great.

It could be argued that flat design fetishizes retro, such as the primitive animation techniques of the 50s. However, we have more control over the web (with responsive design and webfonts) so it’ll be healthy to strip our apps and websites back down to their fundamentals, get these right, revel in their minimalistic beauty, and then move on. Design agencies are showing off their grasp of the modern with start, single-page website layouts, and this is filtering down to commercial websites too.

The flat design ethos will, as with most techniques, oversaturate and then date in comparison to the next movement or set of trends. But it is clearing out the cobwebs and will offer a more timeless foundation than the web design of ten-fifteen years ago.


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