On “flat design”

I’ve long questioned what I see as the Apple aesthetic. Those bevelled buttons, drop shadows and realistic patterns or textures are styling rather than design, and make many companies’ websites and apps seem similar, almost as if they’re a subsidiary of Apple.

So I was glad to read this post by Allan Grinshtein of LayerVault who asked designers to reject this style, and instead strip their designs down to the very basic elements.

Remove the unnecessary embellishments and keep stripping until you’ve almost gone too far. We believe that elegant interfaces are ones that have the most impact with the fewest elements.

Allan Grinshtein

Whilst I understand the reasoning behind using skeuomorphism was due to concerns about making users feel at home in a new digital world, I think it has reached a stage where this aesthetic is repetitive, unimaginative, and in fact seems out of date already. I think the main issue with what the article calls a “lickable” interface is that the styling is seen before the content – there is no polishing the glass here.

You could say that it’s the equivalent to Victorian ornamental typography, in which the printed page was crammed with fleurons and frills – suitable in a minority of circumstances, but overwhelming when used for text-heavy layouts.

In the best pieces of graphic design, unnecessary elements are removed and the content is always given highest prominence on the screen or page.

By removing embellishments and frills we can create designs that are actually far richer.


A blog by Alix Land

Thoughts on design and life as seen through the eyes of a graphic designer.

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