To Be Flat, Or Not To Be Flat
To Be Flat, Or Not To Be Flat
A few weeks ago the creative team at Traction came across an anomaly online - a refreshingly non-negative post on Gizmodo.com (eh-hum... Jesus Diaz) about new design trends presenting themselves in 2013. Well, the post struck a chord within Traction - and a few healthy conversations.
Though most of topics the article touched upon were not actually "new," they did serve as reinforcement to the notion that it's probably time to take these trends to heart - and possibly the mainstream. And as we researched, it led us to a ton of other posts with varying topics for consideration. But today we shall focus on the flat design trend. Here's the thought-pattern we went through.
The hottest design trend for 2013 – and arguably the most controversial – is flat design. This seems to be considered by most the future direction of graphic design. No gradients. No shadows. No details. Primarily solid colors, minimal design elements, and a lack of things that aren't necessary for intuitive use or consumption of things we design.
In contrast to flat design, much of the digital design world has been taken over by skeuomorphic design. Skeuomorphism (emulation of physical-world objects and materials in digital design to translate use and intuitiveness) goes back many years in web design, but really hit its pinnacle with is heavy use in Apple's iOS (the operating system for iPhone and iPad) and many of the popular apps millions of people use everyday.
It is easy to give Apple its due credit for making such an easily-adoptable yet highly-powerful device, much of which can be attributed to their use of skeuomorphism in native apps such as Calendar and Contacts. It surely enabled older generations to almost immediately understand what apps were meant for, and gave context to their real-world counterparts. The flip side of this, however, is now starting to rear its ugly head.
Lets say a millennial (born 1981+ [newly defined as being born between 1977 and 1992]) gets a new smartphone that relies heavily on a skeuomorphic user interface. They open the address book app for the first time and are slightly confused. Why? Because its design mimicks a rolodex (circa 1956). Chances are they've never seen or used one, therefore this design approach alienates them instead of relating its use. Skeuomorphail.
This is the hot topic right now, mainly due to Apple and their future iOS & OSX design direction. There are plenty of good reads on it.
So, is skeuomorphic design on its way out? Will Microsoft's flat design approach with Windows 8 win out and get people buying their software? This article did a great job debunking the potential for that to happen due to it being so flat that usability becomes an issue.
The question we find entertaining to ponder on is whether this crossroads of design trends will impact more than just digital user interfaces, and become something we consider as we work on branding, advertising campaigns, and print collateral.
Will Traction be leaning toward flat design in the near future? Have we already been with projects such as this? And this? Will we alienate all skeuomorphic-centric design touches, or use it more than ever?
Doubtful. We'll do what we've always done and solve the varying problems presented in each project with custom design solutions catering to the specific intricacies and needs of each.