This post examines the solution of “Flat” design style, which has largely replaced “Realism” in the design world since 2012-2013.
If you have recently used a device with an User Interface (a qualification that has come to include most phones, many TVs, and even a sizable number of cars), then you have probably encountered Flat Design. In fact, if you are reading this WordPress post, then you are currently engaging with Flat Design.
But what is Flat Design exactly?
Flat Design gained prominence with the release of Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows 8 operating systems in the early 2010s. As of 2015, it can be seen in the design approach of Google, previously design “realistic” Apple, and most sites that you come across. In fact, this WordPress interface is a fine example of Flat Design.
What lead to the change? The answer seems to be that many designers find Flat Design superior for optimization, particularly because of the rise of mobile.
Some adherents to Flat Design criticized realism as overly skeuomorphic. Skeuomorphs are graphics that imitate real-world imagery and design. The skeuomorphic calculator apps of the past used shadow and lighting effects on their buttons to imitate the roundness of their real-world counterparts. Apple’s previously skeuomorphic Notes app had a background that imitated notebook paper. For many users, the familarity of realistic skeuomorphs is refreshing.
However, as stated earlier, Flat Design has taken the lead in addressing optimization concerns.
Rendering Flat Design is generally lightweight. Although many users are fans of Realism and its detailed skeuomorphs, system resources are not. Realistic imagery can be can be quite taxing to handle. On the increasingly mobile web, system resources must be optimized as well as possible. Serving content quickly is key to survival.
Responsive Design, meaning design that can be reformatted for different devices, has become critical on the web in recent years. Because the mobile space is an increasingly dominant force, meaning that a lack of mobile optimization can deter a great deal of traffic online.
Quite simply, Flat Design is just that: simple. Flat Design is minimalist, meaning its visual communication gets right to the point. It is elegant and lightweight whether it incorporates skeuomorphic or non-skeuomorphic design solutions.
If you would like to learn more about Flat and Realistic design or simply enjoy yourself, check out this well-designed, hilarious game about the topic.
Website Design Hawaii: “The Web Design Battle: Flat vs. Realistic”
UX Mag – “A Look at Flat Design and Why It’s Significant”