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  • Writer's pictureGladwyn Lewis

A foray into the world of flat design

Flat design, is one of the biggest buzzwords in today's design stage. And especially today, a lot of companies are moving into flat design. From logos, to user interfaces, and even to general communication material, flat design has become more or less ubiquitous.

Let's start with the logos. Companies spend a lot of money making sure their brand is easily recognizable, and that their audiences associate a higher value with it. So much so that this particular trend of design that was very unassuming, suddenly gained a lot of popularity and fast. In terms of logos, most people don't stare at logos for a particularly long time, and the average time for noticing and observing your logo is only 3 seconds.

Less is more

Walter Isaacson, formerly Managing Editor of Time magazine, once quoted Steve Jobs: ‘for Steve, less is always more, simpler is always better’. We all know this saying, first popularized by minimalist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which has been transformed into a platitude by advertisers, TV shows, and even corporate America as it tries to pitch an alternative reality to consumerism.

Enough about philosophy. In design, 'less is more' is achieved through only using elements that are required to achieve a specific objective. Similar to minimalism, flat design communicates to a broader reach of audience through simplicity and straightforward design. Not to mention that it is hugely applicable for use on any screens, or any platforms be it print or digital.

Compare it to its weird cousin skeuomorphism, flat design focuses more on usability than familiarity. It all stems from a very basic fact, humans are able to decipher visual cues far more easily, than being given complicated designs to understand what we are looking at. By minimizing the design language, you are automatically removing the distractions that would otherwise come in the way of you communicating your message.

Is Google responsible for flat design?

While Google definitely popularized this type of design and made it mainstream, it wasn't the first into the foray of flat design. Ironically it was Microsoft that was the pioneer, after the Scandinavian folks actually made it a thing. First Microsoft executed it not so effectively with Windows 8, but then Google and then Apple made it a universal language, because it was a part of our day to day lives. Which leads us to the next question, how do you distinguish flat design from other types of designs?

Bright but muted colours

Bright colours are generally used to make elements stand out from the rest of the noise (which is why muted colours and bright colours make a killer combination).

It's actually quite simple when you think about it. The bright colours draw your attention, and if you have multiple bright colours in the same space, they generally compete for attention. One bright colour vs a background muted colour, gives you the impression of a foreground vs a background effect. The foreground is always attention grabbing and in focus, the background complements the foreground by allowing it to take center stage.

Flat design is harmonious

Flat design was built as an answer to skeuomorphism, but it takes the best elements of both skeuomorphism and minimalism and brings them together as a killer combination. Not only that, flat design is approachable to users and oddly relatable. It's all about creating that visual zen, which is enabled by a lot of white space and significantly reduced clutter.

Flat design improves readability

Flat design allows users to consume content with ease, irrespective of whether the content is on a mobile, desktop or television format. Accompany any flat design with a clear copy, the message is driven home and it enables your users to grasp any content.

Minimalism move over, Flat is here to stay

Minimalism was an art, architecture and design form, well before the web was even invented. But what flat design takes from minimalism is its razor focus on efficiency. If it's not required, chuck it! Distractions are never a part of the equation with flat design, it has to be simple, legible, and most of all it has no embellishments.

Flat design is endlessly adaptable

The reason why flat design is so popular is its adaptability.

With a flat logo, you are not restricted to the choice of background that you can use, the intricacies of the design itself allow it to be used extensibility over a variety of backgrounds, colours, designs, etc. The Famous artist Edgar Degas once said, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." This all goes in hand with our screens becoming more and more high definition. With an increased resolution, comes a more crisper image, and with most of the other design styles, that makes it difficult to scale and to be representative of the technological advances we are undergoing today.

Flat design might eventually be replaced by something in the future, that's the nature of most design styles, but in our view flat design is just a reincarnation of its print ancestry in our digital lives.

And in all honesty, it's nothing new, it's just a repurposed, digitized version of minimalism.

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