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What is flat design?

‘Flat’ design uses a minimalist approach with clear lines and elements that appear very simple on screen for the user. Flat design often uses vibrant colours with contrasting text or graphics, it removes any 3D style effects like drop shadows or textures and focuses on simple elements such as typography and flat colours. Advantages of this trend include easy to use interfaces, quick loading times for the user and the accessibility of the interface on various different sized devices. As responsive design has now become the norm, flat design is favoured by many as it uses clear grid systems which are easily scalable.

Is flat design only being used to build interfaces?

No, flat design has taken the web by storm and has even changed the face of various brands including eBay and Microsoft – their logo redesigns have used flat design in a positive way, bringing a modern feel to their brands without losing any of their brand personality.

Image 3 – Spindogs

Image 4 – Spindogs

Yay or nay?

Users have had mixed feelings about flat design in terms of whether it makes the interface too boring or if flat design helps signpost and direct users to the correct information, faster.  Flat design interfaces have also forced content creators to make their online content simple and easy for users to interact with. It appears from the popularity of flat design in 2014 that users are fond of this trend due to its simplistic approach, however, organisations have steered away from flat design as user testing has shown that often buttons are difficult to identify for users as there is no depth used to highlight call to actions.

How is flat design growing?

It’s clear that flat design has become extremely popular in the last year but where can it go from here? Google recently released the ‘material design’ guide which plays on flat design but takes it to another level, showing how simple elements of design can be combined together to make subtle but clear differences for users. As web design is now focused on the design for multiple devices, the principals of ‘material design’ use simple elements which allow designs to become more scalable and also add subtle depth for the user.

‘Material design uses fundamental tools that have come from the world of print design, like baseline grids and a common set of structural grids that work across various pages. The layout is designed to scale across different screen sizes and will help facilitate UI development and ultimately help you create scalable apps.’

Google have outlined a guide for designers illustrating the basic principles for material design which focus on various areas including lighting, depth and how animation can be simplistic which interactive. Will this set the next phase in ‘flat design’ for 2015?

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