Flat Design Is Not A Trend, It’s Been Around For Some Time

Flat design has probably been the most common thing heard by designers this year due to the hype created around it and with the promotion, or rather said, indoctrination done by the design community, almost all of us thought that this is actually a trend.

I shamefully admit that I was one of those people who thought/believed that flat design is a trend, a recent style that we adopted. In fact, flat design has been with us since the early years of printmaking through the Swiss style.

It is true that we adopted it on a large scale really fast, but that’s only because there was a high demand created by the advancements in technology and the need to display more information. It is easier to display information in a rather minimalist style, within a clean interface that is displayed well on various mediums and platforms, thus the usage of flat design has become popular.

ohbeer.com flat site design

Using flat design

It is known that most designers have a thing for minimalism, but minimalism has its limits and constraints. Flat design is somehow related to minimalism in terms of ideology and usability, having crispness and clarity by keeping the minimal look, but handling more complexity.

A big reason why it is used so much among web designers is the fact that it can be easily used for responsive websites to fit seamlessly in any screen size. The other big reason that is also related to the latter is that by using flat design you can make websites faster and more functional.

dropscan.de flat site design

If you have a website that handles a lot of traffic, using flat design is the thing you need to reduce the server load. Also, consider that many people don’t have top notch internet connections and you need to design for the average visitor, making the website files as small as possible. Having a page with lots of graphical elements that loads in a few minutes will surely make your visitors avoid your site.

The silly debate of flat design vs skeuomorphism

Tech debates have been a status quo of the online community for ages, Yahoo vs Google (when they were comparable), Microsoft vs Apple, iOS vs Android, and now designers have enrolled in this battle between flat and skeuomorphic. There are so many things wrong about this debate that I’m not even sure with which to start.

First of all, it is wrong to think that you can either use flat or skeuomorphic design for your clients. Depending on what your client wants, the product that he wants a website for and the audience it is targeting, the design can be made in one of the two styles. It isn’t the designer’s personal choice, but a conclusion based on the client and the product for which the website is made.

Secondly, I don’t know who started saying that flat and skeuomorphic are opposites, but almost everyone seemed to follow this idea. Skeuomorphic design, by definition, is a style that resembles something we know. This doesn’t mean that it has to be an exact replica of what we are used to. But what happens when we design something like a calculator, don’t we make it look like the original in skeu and flat as well? Let’s analyze this issue through two examples.

Skeuomorphic calculator design
Skeuomorphic calculator design

Flat calculator design
Flat calculator design

And now let’s look again at the definition. A design which resembles the real life product is skeuomorphic, which means that flat design is skeuomorphic after all, making the debate of skeu vs flat even sillier.

Why the hate for flat design

Besides the contradictory discussions that are between flat and skeu, there is also a wave of hate for flat design. This is normal for any style that is promoted excessively and used in any situation, everywhere, at any costs, without taking into consideration the fundamentals design principles.

Unfortunately, flat design is considered by some as the next step in the design evolution when actually it is just a style of many that are used to design websites and apps. Using flat design for all the websites that you design is like using Helvetica all over the place. Flat design, as well as Helvetica, are not completely versatile and can’t be used everywhere.

I know that some designers want the flat trend to fade away, but that won’t happen because it isn’t a trend. It’s been here for a while and it’s here to stay.

Flat web design examples

When you look at flat design inspiration it is important to look also at the usability that is behind the design and not just the aesthetics. Making a design flat implies the fact that in a certain way you are making it minimalistic and this means that the elements that are on the page must be there with a certain purpose otherwise they will confuse the visitors.

froont.com flat site design

applove.se flat site design

cloudcannon.com flat site design

getmonsterboards.com flat site design

mightytext.net flat site design

envato.com flat site design

unroll.me flat site design

adayinbigdata.com flat site design

coletownsend.com flat site design

teamsort.com flat site design

siteleaf.com flat site design

dayrise.co flat site design

audiotheme.com flat site design

mapbox.com flat site design

wistia.com flat site design

kippt.com flat site design

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  • http://texrat.net/ aka texrat

    Informative, thanks!

  • ericbieller

    Nice writeup! Personally, though, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that both of those calculators are Skeuomorphic. Digital Skeuomorphism is when something looks like something tangible or real, but does not behave like that tangible or real object. The first calendar’s buttons have depth, like a physical calculator, though they do not actually press inward. The second calendar, however, does not show depth. Instead it merely represents a hit area. On a touch screen, this makes perfect sense and does not seem like Skeuomorphism to me.

    Other than that you hit on some good points. Thanks for writing!

  • gusmelo

    This *entire argument* falls apart when the author tries to claim that Helvetica *can’t* be used everywhere!! :D

  • Bogdan Sandu

    :)). I should have said “shouldn’t be used everywhere”.

  • Thomas Adcock

    Flat design is not a trend. It is going back to basic design fundamentals. Minimalism isn’t about refusing/limiting content, but rather portraying a message visually in the simplest way possible. Minimalism is honest. This goes to say, good riddance to those embellishing techniques used on elements for that oh-so cheesy 3D look.

  • John R Mangiardi

    Flat design represents a failure of the visual: we have reduced reality to the profundity of a cartoon….like settling for a woman with absolutely no breasts: nothing soft or “real” at all. Just boney nothingness in pastel colors that really do not inspire.