• Dan GDan G, over 8 years ago

    I know this isn't a particularly helpful or nice thing to say but I can't help but feel this is still just hugely egotistical and clickbaity.

    33 points
    • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, over 8 years ago

      I read the whole thing - turns out it wasn't click baity (subjective opinion). He has a really, really strong point of view on "flat" design and how it has led to a lack of differentiation—and arguably creativity—which means the post certainly isn't balanced, but it was a good read nonetheless.

      Read it if you didn't!

      12 points
      • Elizabeth AdamsElizabeth Adams, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

        I think there's clearly a strong "point of view," but whether or not there's an actual argument seems to be somewhat unclear to me.

        "Flat design happened! Then homogenization happened!"

        Ok, that seems to be more or less true, and yes, homogenization is bad. Everything looking the same is what really depresses me as a designer in the current climate. As others here have noted, however, flat UIs are ubiquitous because there are a lot of designers in the world producing flat UIs. Why are they doing this? A mix of influences, some from the likes of Apple and Google, but some from end users themselves. To the extent that flat principles assist users, why are we so willing to rag on them?

        I feel like the article would be stronger if:

        1) An actual case for some trend other than flat design (yes, they're all trends) were made. It sounds a lot like this particular designer feels like his personal style is under attack and is bitter about it. The examples given are, I think, useful, but they don't speak to all instances or to why a design trend on the macro scale is better than another one.

        2) The case were presented in terms of what is most helpful to users instead of what is most desirable for designers.

        3) The possibility that there can be differentiation within flat design were entertained. Not all flat web UIs need to be "blurred hero with centered text." Not all Twitter apps need to look the same. Maybe this new kind of differentiation looks exactly like the "dimensional" example Eli presented. Flat design can be balanced with other aesthetics. It's not antithetical to them, or at least it shouldn't be.

        Anyway, I dunno. I would never write a post like this on my own blog because it seems to be so anti-user in both tone and sentiment. It seems to be "all about us," the designers. And maybe this is the artistry part of our work taking over for a minute and supplanting the problem solver part. Perhaps we want to keep a hold of our creative visions. Heaven knows I've gotten sick and tired of designing flat UIs for clients within the "visual monoculture" of contemporary design. However, I'm still puzzled about what the alternative should be in the context of our responsive world.

        25 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 8 years ago

    I'm a big fan of responsive design, but I definitely agree about homogenization. The Twitter/Twiterrific/Tweetbot example is pretty damning, and in my opinion Eli's "dimensional" Apple Watch mockup is clearly the better design.

    I think this is just a temporary overcorrection though, and that good designers will learn to find a balance. If you look at the work of someone like Ben Cline, you can already see how flat and textured elements can work together beautifully.

    22 points
    • Mitch De CastroMitch De Castro, over 8 years ago

      That's a great example; flat and skeuomorphic done in moderation.

      2 points
    • Stuart RobsonStuart Robson, over 8 years ago

      I'm just wondering what does comparing the homogenization of proprietary apps that aren't responsive due to them being proprietary apps have to do with responsive web design?

      1 point
  • Paul ScrivensPaul Scrivens, over 8 years ago

    Seriously when the fuck did designers become so powerless? There isn't a god-like design director sitting over your shoulder telling you not to push the boundaries of flat design (or whatever trend). The people praising articles like this are just confirming that they want somebody else to take the reigns and create another new trend for them to follow.

    Designers are some of the most powerful people on this planet. We directly control how people interact with almost everything in their lives and now a design trend comes around and its ruining our creations?

    We like to brag about creativity and being different and how the world should value us, but yet we follow trends blindly and then all of a sudden it's the trend's fault we put ourselves in this situation?


    16 points
    • pjotr .pjotr ., over 8 years ago

      Yes and no.

      Designers do have power to be creative to a certain extent. Within the context of a development ecosystem, like iOS, a designer must adhere to their interface guides and rules or risk having their app rejected from the app store.

      Beyond that many levels of management are driven by non-designers. Therefore things like trends really stick around for a while because that's what they want.

      You're right, there's nothing forcefully stopping designers from being creative. However those that do work outside the lines and push the boundaries might not have a job for too long.

      6 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 8 years ago

    Use whatever visual style is most appropriate for the intended audience.

    Who gives a rats ass whether you and your designer buddies think it's original or not.

    Design is not art.

    15 points
  • Kyle Greely, over 8 years ago

    Eli has really disappointed me with this series, which is sad since Part 1 was pretty good, in my opinion. It's really easy to rag on the progression of design paradigms without offering any alternatives. I like what he did with the Apple Watch mockup, but really he hasn't considered the user. For the user, flat design and burger menus work right now. Design will always change and evolve. In a few years we will have new paradigms that users will enjoy more. That's how it has always been, that's how it always will be. But to suggest that what was designed on the web in 2005 was better than what we have now is just plain stupid.

    I know that homogenization in app design is wrong and looks bad. But to me it seems he is suggesting that apps should be designed differently just for the sake of being different. That's the most backwards thinking I've seen in design. Design is nothing more than the best way we can show content to users. Design is supposed to be invisible. Why make obnoxious dimensional buttons when the user just wants to quickly analyze and understand the content they are looking at? The main reason apps have become so similar is because when they open one app, they can understand it better since it's displayed in a similar design language to another app they have already used. Apps who differentiated from that trend lost their user base.

    I agree with another commenter here. These articles just feel clickbaity and sensationalist now.

    14 points
    • Pedro PintoPedro Pinto, over 8 years ago

      I totally agree with this. Probably sometimes differentiation just for the sake of it isn't good for the user. Users use a product to do a "job" quickly and efficiently.

      0 points
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, over 8 years ago

    the problem i'm having with this entire series is that overly skeuomorphic was just as irrationally trendy as the current overly flat. styles change, tastes vary. no aesthetic (if well-executed) is better or worse than another.

    13 points
    • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, over 8 years ago

      Definitely irrationally trendy, but it did give designers room for more details, which gave more room for differentiation. That's the main point I got out of the post (probably because I'm so out of touch with what is trendy! :-) )

      2 points
    • Simon GustavssonSimon Gustavsson, over 8 years ago

      The thing is that it had a function beyond just style. It (allegedly and IMO probably) increased understanding of a UI: what was tappable and what was not, what was a nav bar and what was not etc.

      That's not something that should be thrown out the window without a very good reason beyond 'I'm tired of this'.

      2 points
      • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, over 8 years ago

        if the visual design is affecting usability, there's something wrong with the execution. there's no aspect of "flat design" that necessitates removing visual affordances of hierarchy and interactivity. many designers take it too far.

        this works both ways as well. overdone skeuomorphic designs often look too interactable, as in the old twitter example here. the entire header looks like a raised button. it confuses the purpose of the header and adds visual noise.

        regardless of aesthetic visual style, you've got to get the fundamentals right or else it's shitty ui design. i wrote about this a couple years ago. http://jim-silverman.com/blog/skeuomorphic-vs-flat/

        1 point
  • Calvin FennellCalvin Fennell, over 8 years ago

    And so the endless debate between ornamentation and simplicity continues like clockwork, as it has for millenia before us.

    11 points
    • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago

      Exactly my point, this is meaningless

      2 points
      • Nick JonesNick Jones, over 8 years ago

        No, it isn't meaningless. I think you're trying to make this into a semiotic argument about "style" when that's precisely the opposite of what Eli Schiff is doing: he is actually saying that skeuomorphic design, in the absence of anything better, is more expressive than so-called "flat" design because it doesn't create more problems than it solves.

        Did skeuomorphic design over do it sometimes? Of course, yes. But flat design under does it—and worse than that it does so while lying to us about how its effectiveness is driven by data and makes apps faster, blah blah blah.

        Design is and should be work. That's what this comes down to. You may not prefer skeuomorphic design, but you can't argue that it didn't take work and talent to make it happen. You can design a usable app by snapping a bunch of flat colored panels to a grid, but it seems disingenuous at best to call yourself a "designer" while you do. You aren't a designer any more than someone with a Squarespace account is a designer.

        Flat design is a poor rationalization of engineer driven design, and it's making design less expressive. That argument is not meaningless.

        4 points
        • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago

          Obviously you misunderstand what I mean, throughout history there has been an endless debate over ornamentalisation.

          The latest way of describing this debate as “flat vs skeumorphic” only demonstrates a lack of knowledge about history, aesthetics and critical thinking in the design field, are we just pixel pushers?.

          I for one do not propose that one is better than the other, simply that one ought to use the tools that work for the job at hand.

          Sometimes it'll be flat, sometimes it'll be skeumorphic, actually in the end those very distinctions are pointless and meaningless, what one ought to do is design what's best for the goal at hand using ALL the tools at our disposal.

          2 points
          • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

            The latest way of describing this debate as “flat vs skeumorphic” only demonstrates a lack of knowledge about history, aesthetics and critical thinking in the design field,

            Yes, yes, yes. I've said this for a while now, designers don't read, and this whole skeuno/flat charade perfectly exemplifies it.

            0 points
        • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

          Design is and should be work. That's what this comes down to. You may not prefer skeuomorphic design, but you can't argue that it didn't take work and talent to make it happen. You can design a usable app by snapping a bunch of flat colored panels to a grid, but it seems disingenuous at best to call yourself a "designer" while you do. You aren't a designer any more than someone with a Squarespace account is a designer.

          I can see where your heart is leading here, but I honestly think you're mistaken. You seem to have this idea of digital design being some form of meritocratic art, where the more time you spend doing something, the better or more valuable it is a solution. Hopefully you agree with me that that is a bit ridiculous.

          For example, Paula Scher can design a logo (e.g. Citi) in 5 mins. Would a logo someone spent months on be better by default? Again I hope we can agree that that it would not.

          The time and sweat it takes to design something is pretty close to irrelevant if it achieves the desired result, and design is all about results, otherwise it's just art. I think you're a little tied up in the idea of digital design being a craft. Don't get me wrong, there's an element to it, but design is about functionality first and foremost, otherwise form dominates.

          0 points
      • Drew BeckDrew Beck, over 8 years ago

        I think the opposite — the debate has always happened and will always happen, but having the debate is important. It pushes us forward and inspires us to find new ideas and new forms.

        3 points
    • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

      Well, it's hardly endless in my opinion. If we look to architecture, ornamentation had become entrenched in the way we build for 2000 years or more, then along came Modernism to wash it all away, which pretty much brought the debate to an end.

      There have been little cycles and evolutions in the interim and some people like to pursue previous ideas e.g. Building Classically, but this largely still forms the basis of all of design i.e. form follows function.

      1 point
  • Nick JonesNick Jones, over 8 years ago

    Ignore this at your peril. If you're on Designer News because you care about being a designer—and I'm hoping you do—then stories about homogenization within our craft should be very important to you. I, for one, don't want to see myself becoming a pair of hands for some asshat brogrammer with an MBA. And let's face it: a lot of the "design" we've seen in the last five years is precisely that. It ticks all the right boxes, uses the same five colors, looks good on a plastic Android phone and that's it.

    What Eli Schiff is talking about here is a real danger within the design community. It's one thing to take up fads as designers. That happens all the time. Even Aqua was a pervasive fad in the late 90's/early 2000's. It's another thing to allow fads, and an inflated sense of purpose or business attache, divert you from producing clear work that advocates for users. Google Material doesn't advocate for users. It attempts to put the onus on developers to fix Google's fragmented device landscape. And as much as I love Apple and my iPhone, iOS 8 doesn't do much more for users, although it clearly doesn't reek of lock-in and colonialism the way Google does.

    When we allow fads to be elevated to one size fits all solutions, we have failed in our work. Reading about Dieter Rams but making everything you design conform to a formula is malpractice.

    10 points
    • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, over 8 years ago

      The thing about other fads is that they grew organically. Not so with responsive design and flat design—they were heavily promoted as the One True Way, but the justifications always come down to saving money, not doing better design. They are like you said: MBA driven design.

      3 points
      • Drew BeckDrew Beck, over 8 years ago

        I'm really curious where you (and others) get the idea that flat was only ever promoted b/c of financial concerns. Did Apple redesign iOS in a flat style to save money? Did Google with Android?

        1 point
        • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, over 8 years ago

          Why flat design was promoted is different from why Apple or Google redesigned their OSes.

          And if you read the iOS HIG, you'll find that Apple doesn't embrace flat design to the extent that people think.

          It states upfront that the three main themes of iOS are deference, clarity and depth. Here's what it says about metaphor: "When virtual objects and actions in an app are metaphors for familiar experiences—whether these experiences are rooted in the real world or the digital world—users quickly grasp how to use the app."

          It even directly defends skeuomorphism: "GarageBand could have helped people make music without displaying beautiful, realistic instruments, but this would have made the app less intuitive and less enjoyable to use."

          0 points
          • Eli SchiffEli Schiff, over 8 years ago

            HIG defense of skeuomorphism is lip service, really. In the latest article I discussed that most of the depth is non-functional (that wouldn't be a bad thing if they had not prohibited functional depth).

            0 points
      • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

        I'm intrigued, what's your alternative to responsive design? Making a site for every device or just picking one view and sticking with it? I can understand not appreciating a style like 'flat' design, but this is a technical thing.

        And surely all design is about money at the end of the day, you can't spend a lifetime working on a design just because it's potentially 'better'. Creating something with less resources that does gets the information to the user sounds like good design to me.

        0 points
        • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, over 8 years ago

          IMO design is more than the transmission of information.

          0 points
          • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

            Ok. That aside, i'm still struggling with the idea that RWD is some kind of fad that is anti-design in some way. Do you have much experience with it/have worked on a responsive site yourself? It is not a new idea by any means: http://alistapart.com/article/dao.

            The web is primarily about communication, and designing responsively allows us to make the same information more accessible to more people on more devices, all with one site. That sounds like good design to me.

            And your point about money confuses me a bit too. Design exists in the real world, under real world constraints. Saving time, money and resources where possible are valid, if not integral, parts of what equates to a successful design. This seems like a design axiom to me.

            0 points
            • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, over 8 years ago

              Yes, I'm familiar with responsive design, I have designed and coded responsive websites, and I have nothing against media queries, etc. as such. My problem is with the kinds of arguments that are made in favor of responsive design. I especially don't trust essays like the one you linked which rely on attacking designers' supposed immorality or character flaws instead of making the case for their preferred approach on its merits. There's quite a lot of this kind of very poor writing about design that relies on berating designers for failing to submit to business and technical constraints.

              You say that giving people the same information on all their devices is good design, but that's not always true. My blog is responsive, because it's true for that particular problem. Does it hold for an ecommerce site where mobile users are comparison shopping in a physical store? Does it hold for a music streaming service where mobile users are on the bus? Does it hold for a hotel website where mobile users are checking in? It might be true. Or it might not. But you can't just assume that it is.

              You're right that saving time, money and resources is important. It's also true that the most cost efficient website is no website. There are plenty of ways to save costs that also eliminate the value, so discussions about cost reduction without an understanding of value are not useful. And what's your time horizon for assessing value? Is it quarterly, or longer term? What are you going to do with the savings? It only makes sense if you can put those resources towards other, more valuable opportunities. Are you a startup? A retailer? An agency? A government? That makes a difference in terms of how and why to save costs.

              Responsive design makes perfect sense in some situations, but some people treat it like the One True Way, and don't realize they're actually making a bunch of design and business decisions.

              0 points
              • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

                [Sorry for the ridiculous delay, I went on holiday in the middle of writing this and completely forgot about it.]

                There's quite a lot of this kind of very poor writing about

                Forgive me for invoking the arugmentum ad populum, but a lot of people regard that article as a landmark piece of writing about the web. Maybe worth a re-read? (http://alistapart.com/blog/post/15-years-of-dao/)

                It's also true that the most cost efficient website is no website.

                Of course, maybe I should have put a caveat that I meant savings made within the confines of the functionality we set out to achieve. e.g Building a site/app to sell X.

                Design does not exist in a vacuum, and we can’t continue to plug away indulgently for the sake of Design, with a capital D.

                Does it hold for an ecommerce site where mobile users are comparison shopping in a physical store? Does it hold for a music streaming service where mobile users are on the bus? Does it hold for a hotel website where mobile users are checking in?

                I would argue that these kinds of decisions are all part of the development process, (similar concerns are brought up in Luke Wroblewski's book 'Mobile First'). Responsive doesn't just mean rejigging the page, and if research suggested particular customer habits/desires, then these could be accommodated.

                In any case, none of those things are served by a static site, and building specific apps for each could get very expensive/would be awkward for users. RWD can strike a nice middle ground.

                Responsive design makes perfect sense in some situations, but some people treat it like the One True Way, and don't realize they're actually making a bunch of design and business decisions.

                I certainly agree that it's something that should be used on a case by case basis, but I'd argue in the majority of cases it does provide a net benefit. With an increasingly varied device landscape, unless the data was absolutely clear (e.g. 99% desktop access) then we are arbitrarily choosing a single screen to design for, the share of which could easily change in the future; something that designing device-agnostically avoids.

                0 points
  • David BroderickDavid Broderick, over 8 years ago

    IMO the most insightful part of this is the idea that designers have backed themselves into a corner with flat design. The idea that deviating from flat design can result in people interpreting the work as outdated/not current, and how this effects identity.

    8 points
  • A B, over 8 years ago

    Skeuomorphism is dead. I hope it stays that way. Just because screens have higher resolutions does not mean we should clutter the screen with useless accents. Its much faster to process a flat design than a skeuomorphic one.

    As technology advances so will design. You can already see things becoming less flat (as mentioned in the article). Drop shadows and gradients are becoming more prevalent. I'm sure these small iterations will someday surmount to the reemergence of skeuomorphism, but today is not that day.

    Long live flat design!

    7 points
    • Nick JonesNick Jones, over 8 years ago

      Processing time should not be a criteria by which this stuff is decided. Like it or not, design is one of the arts; this is the problem all these startup founders and CEOs have with it. It's not precise, it isn't about optimization and it's certainly not about saving a few processor cycles to paint a flat color versus a gradient.

      As for technology being the thing that pushes design, tell that to the generations of artists and designers who cut rubylith film and burned and dodged in the darkroom to do their work. Technology doesn't make anything better, it just makes it faster and easier. Faster and easier are the problem. Faster and easier is "download this kit for Sketch that does 95% of the work for you."

      2 points
      • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, over 8 years ago

        Like it or not, design is one of the arts

        Wait, is it?

        1 point
      • Raphael LoderRaphael Loder, over 8 years ago

        Processing time should not be a criteria by which this stuff is decided. Like it or not, design is one of the arts;

        It's not precise, it isn't about optimization and it's certainly not about saving a few processor cycles to paint a flat color versus a gradient.

        I see there is a completely different mindset about UI design at work here. Because that's definitely not how I see UI design.

        0 points
        • Ian GoodeIan Goode, over 8 years ago

          Optimization and performance are definitely outside factors in UI design, but if you're worried about gradients wasting a few processor cycles then you're worrying about the wrong things.

          1 point
      • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

        Design is one of the arts ... It's not precise, it isn't about optimisation and it's certainly not about saving a few processor cycles to paint a flat colour versus a gradient.

        Design as a general theory maybe, but when design is realised or implemented it is absolutely defined by its constraints, whatever form it takes. Be that printing, furniture or web design. It's nice to have these highfalutin ideas about it, but at the end of the day you're at the whim of the medium.

        0 points
        • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

          Welcome to the endless debate of what art is, Kant defines art as “a kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, though without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication”.

          I think that since design has a purpose we can't really call it an art form, and we can actually judge design by how well it achieves its end.

          1 point
          • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

            Couldn't agree more, people seem to be far too romantic about design here (at least going by these comments). If you want to be an artist and express yourself to the universe by all means go ahead, but leave it at the door, design is about function first and foremost.

            0 points
  • Benjamin KowalskiBenjamin Kowalski, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    With each article I tend to agree there is a bit of homogeneous design fad stuff happening. It's obvious. Looking at app websites, studio websites, etc. leads to a pattern because they usually convert to downloads, sales, calls, etc. very well. It's an unfortunate symptom of our "5-sec" generation where you've got 5 seconds to get someone informed and interested.

    Within apps there are patterns that test better than others. However, as shown in my attached picture, many designers today just leave designs 'incomplete.' They follow the patterns, use trendy colors, get a nice layout, but then don't follow through to polish and add detail. I think this shows a lack of professionalism in a lot of designers today. Bootcamp programs, that I know of, don't focus on the finishing details. So much focus is put on research, testing, wireframing, flows, etc. that students are left without details. As Eames said "Details are not the details, details are the design." I think this is the most relevant quote for how our digital design industry works today.

    I don't think we need to look back at Skeuomorphism as the answer. I think studying those interfaces is relevant and they deserve to be looked at. But minimizing distracting amounts of detail (pixel perfect leather texture), paired with user-friendly architectural mobile patterns, and design polish (yes shadows can be good, so can subtle texture) will lead our current designs in to a better place.

    Looking at all of the examples he references, it's only a collection of people who've repeated one another. There are many that don't follow those layouts, are far more complex and compelling, but perhaps at the end of the day less user-friendly. A balance will be found, but criticizing the status quo is always welcomed.

    Types of Design Image

    6 points
  • Matt SistoMatt Sisto, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    Right now is awesome IMHO.

    6 points
  • Chris O'SullivanChris O'Sullivan, over 8 years ago

    The article covers a lot of angles. But one point in particular feels strange to me. The author suggests that with better screens and graphic capabilities we can, and perhaps should, add more details to design. If anything this seems in conflict with doing great design work, as it's purely to take advantage of technology and not the needs of the end user.

    There's definitely a need for more differentiation between digital products, but layering back on the effects isn't the way forward either.

    If anything I would say the skeuomorphic trend on iOS pre-iOS7 was indulging in the technical capabilities too much. That era will be looked upon as what the 1980s is to music. Some great stuff, sure. But a lot of indulging in new capabilities.

    Flat design is a trend, but minimalism is a timeless practice. Minimalism by definition meaning 'taking away everything except what is necessary'. Flat design just goes too far when it takes away some of what is necessary, in terms of affordance and brand recognition.

    5 points
  • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I want to break down this post into actual arguments that might have some value, I might be wrong but here's what I read:

    -We're doing responsive design

    -There is a design aesthetic called flat design, it's trendy.

    -Responsive design tends to be flat

    -Flat design doesn't allow products to stand apart(visually)

    -Flat design is illegible

    If you stop and evaluate each of these claims on it's own merit you'll quickly realize that most of them are not very strong.

    Flat design isn't some new hot trend, it's just using type, shape and color to design.

    Did the "digital product design"world fall in love with this minimalism? Yes, but it's nothing new in the arts or design in general.

    Is it illegible? Hardly, if anything all the examples shown were more legible.

    Does it affect branding? Maybe so, but not really a "flat design" problem. More likely an issue with the designer's choices. And at that we have to wonder if this really affected how users perceive the brand or the business.

    Getting lost in the semantics of wether something is flat or skeumorphic is completely beside the point. If you want to go to the next level of your design game why not stop thinking in these simplistic terms and focus on actual problems?

    5 points
    • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, over 8 years ago

      I do disagree with the piece on this particular point as well. I don't believe "Flat Design" is inherently poor design, nor easy to execute well.

      Unfortunately, it is indeed being executed poorly by many, the same way that skeumorphism was executed poorly.

      However, I think the spirit of the series is important. Designers need not be emasculated by this attack on their prototyping tools (yes, Photoshop/Sketch is a prototyping tool) or lack of computer science degrees. If designers are being pushed out by alleged unicorns who can install Bootstrap and change a sass variable or two, then design is really going to suffer.

      0 points
      • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago

        Not necessarily, I think it's just time for designers to learn some new tools.

        Seriously what about when photoshop came around and some older designer had to learn how to use this weird digital tool?

        Did design suffer? Every time there's a threat to the status quo the immediate reaction is to say "this is bad, we will lose something" and we might but we might also gain something.

        It's kind of pointless to fight it anyway.

        1 point
        • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, over 8 years ago

          Totally, it's hard to discuss this without stating all the variables up front. I've been at this for a little over a decade and every new year brings a few new twists to consider and new approaches & tool sets.

          Programming keeps getting more sophisticated, and all companies have different approaches. I think it's pretty unfair for great designers to be completely burdened with dual specializations to be considered a "real" designer, and frankly I've seen plenty of haphazard "code first" products that don't do the industry or the consumer any favors.

          Trends aren't so bothersome in the way that fashion changes too, but everything has to stay fundamentally utilitarian.

          Caveats galore, but, I think this is more than just "flat is ugly and cheap and easy" but rather just more growing pains along the way to somewhere.

          0 points
          • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, over 8 years ago

            Yes I agree that it's kind of crazy to expect a person to both be a developer and a designer.

            The code first approach doesn't' always work, but creating mocks in Photoshop or Sketch or whatever.. tens to be a waste of time as well, since these mocks are just images and can't really be purposeful after that. Some larger companies can afford that, many startups or small agencies cannot.

            Plenty of tools are meeting in the middle, there are tools to generate HTML, there are tools to design responsively (which is a nightmare in static tools) and there are tools that take mocks and turn them into prototypes.

            0 points
      • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

        If designers are being pushed out by alleged unicorns who can install Bootstrap and change a sass variable or two, then design is really going to suffer.

        Then designers need to stand up, fight harder and show the value of design, rather than just bemoaning the onrush of progress (with articles like this). Huge swathes of jobs and industries have been replaced and automated over the years and it looks like design will be no different.

        Fighting against the waves will not work, designers need to change, not the world around them. It's not pleasant to see an attack on your industry, but a designer should be more than the tools they use and should be able to find outlets for their skills if they truly to have something to offer.

        0 points
        • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, over 8 years ago

          Well of course I agree, designers should stay at the table and help shape the future of the web, as they've always done. However, I think it's pretty clear which products look like they've come off of a framework assembly line, and that speaks volumes already.

          Design is obviously a lot more than aesthetics or trends, so as I mentioned before, I'm not as concerned about that aspect, nor do I think design is some industry silo that can simply be turned on or off. Everything is designed, good or bad.

          I'll go so far as saying that this essay or those like it aren't really a business model or mission statement to rally around, and maybe the author would agree. I think it reads more like manifesto of sorts, a few good points, some messy ones, and some that are just speculation. And that's really okay, if it gets us talking and thinking.

          1 point
  • Louis BLouis B, over 8 years ago

    I agree and I disagree, annoyingly. Each serves a purpose, I prefer cleaner, less bulgy and non-skeuomorphic designs, but when done right like the iWatch example it works brilliantly.

    Basically don't go too far one way over the other? Keep the balance maannn...

    3 points
  • Drew BeckDrew Beck, over 8 years ago

    The call-out of the homogenization of design is on-point, but I think deserves a more nuanced discussion.

    Having a consistent and easy-to-implement design language has been amazingly useful over the last [x] years as the number of apps, products, and websites has multiplied. On the app front, people have built thousands of different takes on often very similar functionality — text or image as the primary content, a social network with feeds and profiles, sharing functions, chat — and having a set of composable pieces that are generally consistent has made developing these apps incredibly easy and effective. This has been a boon to developers, yes, because they can put an app together without knowing a whole lot about design. But it's been great for UX designers as well: we've been able to focus on what's unique about our apps instead of reinventing the header or the back button or the user profile over and over again.

    I am also a big fan of the now-generic flat product or service website — the one we all know very very well, with a large hero image and a bunch of full-width sections below. In 99% of cases I'm at a site like that because I want to learn what your product does, who it's for, and how it works. I find a great many of these sites incredibly effective at achieving these goals, and I leave happy. Are they unique? No. But they're successful, which is so much more important.

    I come at this very much as a UX person and much less as a visual designer (though that is my background). A simple and, yes, generic, product page like that, or a simple and generic app, is usually pretty dang easy to use. I'm not struggling with how it works or learning it's quirks. I don't have to hunt to find a menu or a section, or remember an un-discoverable gesture to do a basic action. It just works.

    I agree strongly with others who say that we are in a pretty understandable and expected part of the design cycle. We had our intense skeumorphic time, now we're in the intense flat time. The next step is finding new ways to bring back more nuance and individuality to our designs — while not sacrificing strong user experience.

    2 points
  • adrian ioadrian io, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    Serious question...

    What's the definition of expressive design? And how does it add value for the user?

    Plus points for examples or studies.

    2 points
    • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

      If you look at Modernist Graphic design you can see how even "flat" can be expressive. Look at Paul Rand or Saul Bass. I disagree with the notion that flat has to be expressionless, rather that UI design is misguided into being purely functional and trendy when it comes to aesthetics. Why does UI design have to be purely functional?

      EDIT: To give an example on how expressive design could benefit a user, look at Facebook's Chat Heads. By prominently putting a face on a message, the message felt more human in contrast to the cold generic look that is the current Facebook Messenger.

      0 points
      • adrian ioadrian io, over 8 years ago

        I was waiting for Eli to define what he means with 'expressive design' first ;) But I think he isn't around anymore.

        As I understand it he thinks 'flat' design can't be expressive, but I disagree and you made some good points about why it can be expressive. I agree with his point about homogenization though.

        Most websites / apps are about communicating information and thus should be approached with an information design mindset first.

        From my experience (user testing) users didn't really care too much about style, but more about whether they could achieve their goals.

        One of Bauhaus' core tenets is 'truth to materials'. Microsoft's Metro (now Modern) was certainly inspired by those principles and they did a great job kick-starting this movement towards 'content over chrome'. First iOS7 and now Material Design have followed suit and evolved it a bit further.

        There is still so much room to be expressive within those 'healthy' constraints and opportunities to add back the human touch, that maybe some think has been lost since the move away from 'skeumorphism'.

        0 points
        • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 8 years ago

          I too agree that the flat design trends cause homogenization, but there's no reason it should be.

          Graphic designers have managed to make some of the most expressive flat minimalist designs using content that's bound to the paper. There's no reason why designs for a digital screen should be anything less than that.

          Of course websites and apps are all about communicating information, but there's no reason for that to be static and cold either. Flat design should bring us closer to the content by being free from the skeuomorphic and ornamental limitations. The same way Modernist graphic design helped add expression to content in paper form, we should be doing the same to digital form. We can in fact effectively communicate information and be expressive, it has been done for hundreds of years in print.

          We should actually be doing this even better than those Modernist graphic designs with animations and interactivity.

          And in my opinion, a lot of websites and apps, while being easy to read, pretty to see, and easy to use fail to do that. The Avenir Clinic website, while it looks pretty, doesn't honor the its content.

          0 points
  • Ben MJTBen MJT, over 8 years ago

    The web has experienced its own Modern movement over the past few years, going Skeuno to Flat in no time at all, something that took design in general thousands of years. This is undoubtedly for the better as function has taken the place of meaningless ornamentation (the web has finally caught up with other design disciplines), but I agree there is a potential for homogeneity.

    However, the answer to this (if there even needs to be one) is certainly not to lurch back into ornamentation. Doing so would simply be going over old ground and yearning for a bygone age that is now meaningless, much like the architects (and their clients) who cling to the styles of the Renaissance. Just because our screens are better now, that does not mean we should rush to fill them with noise again, this is just making the same mistakes yet again, have we learnt nothing?

    This would also undo the process of maturation the web has gone through; the reason so many sites look similar is because designers finally came to the realisation (on their own, or having been pushed by 'Flat' design or RWD) that function is the most important thing, namely giving information, largely text, to the user (something iA nailed, and were roundly ridiculed for, almost 10 years ago in their article 'Web Design is 95% Typography')

    Responsive design has evolved this further, adapting the goal into making this information accessible on as many devices as possible. This is logical, appropriate and honest design. The more sites that are more readable on more devices is a win in my opinion, especially considering the dark days of the web. This is almost a good, or luxury, problem to have.

    As for moving forward, I do not feel for a second that digital design needs another epochal change, almost daily I am impressed by the quality of design being achieved on the web today, and little to none of that has to do with hollow ornamentation. All that needs to happen is for designers to better wield the tools they've always had: shape, colour, contrast, scale, balance, type etc. along with a splash of confidence. Mastering those is more than enough to create engaging designs, all without sacrificing the core function of communication.

    The web has had its Modern moment, the styles have been reset, and we should be embracing it, not trying to go back.

    P.S. Although I wrote this mainly in respect to web design, it could be applied to UI design in general.

    1 point
  • Account deleted over 8 years ago

    The homogenization argument stands true. I feel, though, that everything looks the same because everyone's still learning along the way on how to do this right, but we'll get past that. As a wake-up call, Eli's article works.

    The whole "I wish UIs were still from 2005" thing really bogs it down for me, though. This article would still totally work without the "the past is superior" vibe it's got.

    I'd like to echo Sacha Greif: there's a balance to strike. We'll get there. Other commenters have also mentioned designers like Paul Rand and Saul Bass, who have a more-or-less flat aesthetic, but are still plenty recognizable. Perhaps we need another David Carson to turn things around?

    1 point
  • Ian WilliamsIan Williams, over 8 years ago

    Yes yes yes.

    1 point
  • Joshua MillerJoshua Miller, over 8 years ago

    Great, honest read Can't wait until the next episode!

    0 points
  • Alex YakirAlex Yakir, over 8 years ago

    It's always surprising to see how designers forget about the whole composition and get obsessed with one object's details.

    IMHO when a design really works, It's when the sum is larger than it's parts. Not the other way around.

    0 points