Seriously, I’m sick of everyone talking about 'flat' design as if it’s some sort of revolution. Mostly because none of the well designed interfaces that are coined as flat are actually flat. ‘Flat’ has a negative meaning, and is especiallynegative what talking about design. There has to be depth along with hierarchy, scale, and a slue of other elements in successful design. Just because a design doesn’t use skeuomorphism or gradients does not make it flat. What I see happening now is a form of minimalism. Minimalism in which depth is achieved by strokes, color variances, typographic changes, size, weight, figure-ground, etc.–in short many things that were principally employed in print design before appearing on the web.
I think this minimalism makes a lot of sense for the evolution of design happening in digital spaces. Interfaces are so prevalent in all our lives, even non-techy people, so we no longer feel the need to make buttons as evident as making them look like a real-life button. We need to differentiate functionality within interfaces, but we don’t have to make it a parallel to real life. Those real-life parallels have in some cases become annoying to users, as they are simply excess visual information. The reduction seems natural, even needed, while possibly the opposite is true for user groups who haven’t achieve that level of interface knowledge.
I would even venture to say that the old trend of skeuomorphic design has begun to create a cognitive dissonance in present culture. Millennials have never even seen a quill & inkwell or a dictionary in the form of a book, OR EVEN A BOOK.
This dissonance brings up many questions as interfaces continue to evolve; How much minimalism is needed? How far can we take it? Is it about visually reducing the style of something, or actually creating a reduced visual? Can we ever get to something that truly reduces the need for tactile parallels? I’m not sure that’s the right goal, it’s just the questions that I’m confronted with as I start to pick apart the why of interface design. We need to be asking many more questions that explore beyond the visual as we innovate forward.
Half of what we see is trend while the other half is the evolution of interface design as a whole, and I really don’t think it’s more than that. Users learn, so interfaces have the opportunity to mature. We need to look towards how interface design can be further evolved, and how we as designers can create innovative iterations while continuing to inform and delight users. Let’s continue to elevate interaction design as a whole, and let’s stop talking about this new-fangled ‘flat’ design.