2013 Was the Year of Flat Design
Imagine waking up one day and all your make-up, jewellery and designer clothes were gone. Imagine you were sent out into the open in just your underwear. That’s what it’s been like for us designers this year.2013 will be known as the year of flat design, which by the way has nothing to do with feng shui. Rather, with the arrival of technological revolutions like iOS7, graphic web design has been stripped down and defaced. In a bid to enhance user experience on devices like tablets and phones, gone now are the days of bevel and emboss effects, drop shadows and intricate typography.
The differences between flat design and its counterpart skeuomorphic design – outlined in the image above – are mostly evident in how the iPhone display looked pre- and post-iOS7, the operating system that Apple promised would revolutionise its iconic phone and iPad this year.
Whether that’s actually the case remains one of the debates of 2013, but it’s certainly true from a design point of view. The hallmarks of skeuomorphic design: the embossed effects, 3-D artificial textures, bevel effects, drop shadows and reflective shimmers of on-screen icons in iOS6 and previous operating systems, have been replaced with flat design icons. Flat design icons use minimalist design, bold colours framed by sharp edges and lines, and sharp, simple typography. Shadowing, if it’s at all present, is very basic.
Many criticise flat design’s cartoonish simplicity – mostly us. A lot of designers felt like their prettiness had been taken away, so there’s been quite the fight against flat design coming in.
Unfortunately the fundamental problem is that skeumorphism causes usability issues with smartphones and tablets. You can’t actually see or properly load some website content on these devices, and it slows them down. The market – in other words the technology – dictates the trend and there is a need for easy-to-read and functional plain websites, hence flat design is the big thing.
In many ways it reflects the online zeitgeist. Search engines are becoming more literal and intuitive, and easy-to-read, functional websites full of quality content are rewarded and rank well. In other words, I’m afraid to say, it’s not about the designers anymore; it’s about the users getting information in the most logical and easiest way possible. We were effectively caked in make-up beforehand, so it’s been a bit like a Dove advert in that we’ve had to embrace the beauty coming from within.
It’s sad to think that as droves of graphic designers run around half-naked, up in arms, they’re probably waving goodbye to skeumorphic design. But we can’t be sure what will come next in this ever-evolving world of technology, and being granted only limited assets means brand new design challenges.
2014 will be a whole new playing field in terms of web design. We have to be super-creative and unique, but in very simple ways. How designers will find a way to evolve flat design remains to be seen, but it’s always directly affected by how technology develops. You never know, maybe bevel will be back.