Remember the black computer screens and green monospaced fonts of the 1980’s? Graphic design tools have moved on in leaps and bounds since then and designers are able to show off their skills by creating lifelike, textured images that have bevelled edges, shadows, highlights and fading. The images appear to have weight and form like a 3D object. Very cool.
But everything moves in cycles and there is now a strong trend towards flat design. Web designers are going old school and reverting to minimalist graphics without the fancy detail. Microsoft, Apple and Google are doing it by using monochrome symbols and icons instead of realistic illustrations on Windows 8, Apple’s iOS 7 and Chrome on Android.
Apple's new look interface design for IOS7
Apart from being the ‘in thing’ right now, flat design is also user friendly because of the sharp lines, simple colours and free space in between images. The uncluttered space leaves people free to focus on using their device or having a web experience without the distraction of special effects.
So does flat design put the funky into functional or is it just plain and boring? There is no right answer - it depends on the context of the design and on personal taste. The bright block colours of a flat design help you to find buttons, tabs and icons quickly, and the simple graphics can be interpreted and understood easily which improves usability. Certain icons are now so universal that they are understood as readily as words.
But flat design won’t suit every purpose. Some websites and brands suit a little extra flourish and intricacy to convey a tone of luxury, accessibility or tradition. It’s horses for courses and goes back to the principle of defining the personality of your brand.
We at Studio Republic (while we appreciate a good drum kit) are not generally comfortable with blowing our own trumpet - but we must point out that we are skilled in both website functionality and graphic design. We have yin and yang; we understand beauty and brains when it comes to translating design into digital. This means we understand trends in graphic design, how best to express your brand through design, and what works best for your website or brochure in terms of usability.
We are lucky enough to work with many different kinds of clients so we work on projects that are quirky and comical, formal and authoritative or slick and sleek in the same week. We embrace both flat design and skeuomorphism (the other kind of realistic design). Variety is the spice of life and we are definitely meatballs.