Flat design — the design community just can’t stop talking about it. And feelings are strong. Most designers either can’t get enough of this trend, or absolutely hate it. I am somewhere in the middle. Good design is about creating something useful that works. If the answer is designed in the fashion of flatness, so […]
Yes, there are some superficially nice examples in this Designmodo article on so-called flat design, the latest design trend that is sweeping the online landscape — where most young and/or inexperienced designers fall into the trap of focussing only on the aesthetic layer of GUI design. The article doesn’t at all touch upon the reason why flat design is so successful — apart from it being a fad and that its obviously important to jump onto the bandwagon for great success.
Flat design has been around for decades (I’m limiting myself to the 20th century onwards), and we usually call it graphic design. What we’re seeing now — if done well — is a simple distillation and application of graphic design principles (usually a contemporary derivative of Modernist styles) translated to screen design: clearly structured content that is easily consumed and manipulated, foregoing unnecessary ornamentation in favour of a bold, (typo)graphic-led approach. Something that in itself has been around since the mid 90s, when it was simply interactive or web design that was labelled “minimal” or “clean”. Feel free to stroll through my design archive to see that “flat” design has been around for quite some time.
Flat design doesn’t always mean better or clearer design, and the design approach shouldn’t be reduced to a superficial stylistic trend becoming the subject of listicles and pseudo tutorials that break down complex design decisions. If you’re avoiding gradients and drop shadows in favour of geometric shapes and sans-serif typefaces because everyone else is doing so, you’re missing the point. Go read a book on design theory (take your pick from this list) and then start again.
As with any design trend, its always smart to take from it what you need, because as commercial designers staying relevant is what keeps you in business, but great work is often created by those that don’t let the trends dictate the creative decisions. And as with all things being cyclical, it won’t be long before we’re reinterpretting the postmodernism design of the 1990s.
And lastly, the article — and this is the thing that made me write this in the first place — offers Flat Design template kits. I understand the need for design kits (like the excellent iOS GUI PSD files from Teehan+Lax), but how bad (or gullible) a designer do you need to be to actually buy PSD files of text boxes?