Flat design is a variation of the ever-so-popular minimalist design trend of the past several years. It is commonly seen in both user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design. UI and UX designers employ the principles of flat design to improve user experience.
In essence, this minimalist design approach relies on two-dimensional shapes, flat icons, and other simple design elements to boost clarity and readability. It stands in stark contrast to the skeuomorphic design school, a design style meant to mimic real-world elements through drop shadows and similar tricks.
This article will discuss flat design in more detail, shed some light on why more and more top development companies are using it and why it might become the dominant trend in web design in 2022 and beyond.
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Table of Contents
Key Characteristics of Flat Design
Flat design and responsive website design go hand in hand. The former was developed to facilitate the latter, making responsiveness much easier to achieve on various viewports and screen sizes. There are four crucial characteristics of flat design that help it accomplish this:
- Simple typography — Flat design stays away from flashy fonts. It relies on straightforward, sans-serif typography to help websites load fast and help readers consume the content effortlessly for a highly efficient user experience.
- Minimal textures — Gradients and drop shadows are seldom seen on flat design elements, as they typically don’t contribute to readability and efficiency.
- Simple shapes — Instead of photorealistic or highly artistically complex images and textures, flat design relies on simple 2D vector art.
- Bright colors — Due to flat design’s minimalist nature, artists must rely on bright colors to convey visual information to users.
Usability is the focus of this minimalist design approach. It features two-dimensional illustrations, bright colors, crisp, clean lines, and plenty of negative space. The style clearly distinguishes tactile, real-world objects, and on-screen elements.
Done right, simple images can convey messages more efficiently than detailed illustrations. Flat icons indicate universal purposes and actions that everyone can understand at a glance. These characteristics make it clear that flat design is a style focused entirely on usability, functionality, and minimalism.
Flat Design vs. Skeuomorphic Design
Often described as two opposite ends of the spectrum, flat design and skeuomorphism rely on very entirely different approaches to UX and UI design.
As explained above, flat design forgoes detailing and shading in favor of two-dimensional images to create a more minimalist style. It does so to enhance readability and clarity, and one of its strongest suits is that it can quickly adapt to different devices and different-sized viewports.
This approach does not utilize highlights and shadows, making interaction with elements like buttons somewhat less intuitive. Even so, it is hard to disagree with proponents of flat design that this method makes for more user-friendly mobile apps and responsive websites.
Skeuomorphism, on the other hand, relies heavily on digital metaphors to achieve an analog look in digital objects. Gradients and shadows help three-dimensional skeuomorphic elements “pop” and allow users to operate digital objects like buttons more intuitively. That said, skeuomorphic design is more resource-intensive, meaning it can make websites and apps respond more slowly and increase loading times.
How to Use Flat Design Effectively?
Below are a few simple tips to follow if you want to take full advantage of flat design. These will help you utilize the design philosophy to its capacity throughout your web page development process.
- Use context clues — If you want your users to navigate the site without relying on overt styling, you’ll need to resort to alternative methods. This means using color and white space more effectively. Also, don’t be afraid to turn to arrows and other simple vector illustrations to let the users know exactly what you expect from them.
- Make your message loud and clear — Being minimalist doesn’t mean being timid or dull. Don’t shy away from your message, be upfront and bold with it and make the path abundantly clear for the user. A straightforward grid layout with clean lines is an excellent way to accomplish this.
- Use fonts effectively — It’s no use having a sleek and modern website design if you use archaic or overly stylized typefaces. Make sure to use an easy-to-read sans-serif font that complements the site’s overall look.
- Liven things up with color — Let’s face it; your flat design toolbox is not exactly overflowing with tools. The philosophy is inherently minimalistic, so there aren’t too many ways to make your website stand out. Thankfully, nothing stops you from using a thoroughly engaging (yet consistent) color scheme to keep your users interested.
Ornamental elements are considered unnecessary in flat design. Basically, each aspect that doesn’t serve a functional purpose is seen as a distraction. This is why even an untrained eye can see the connection between flat design and minimalism.
However, utilizing a flat design philosophy should never be used as an excuse for producing boring designs. In this approach, perhaps more than any other, it is crucial to use bright, contrasting colors to guide the users’ eyes and grab their attention by making buttons and illustrations pop.
In this post, we’ve covered all the benefits of flat design and how it differs from other design philosophies. Because of all these factors, we believe that flat design is the way of the future and will only become more prevalent in 2022 and beyond.
That said, it would be irresponsible to claim that this style is objectively superior to other design approaches. In web design, all directions and styles have their own sets of pitfalls and benefits.
Flat design simply opens new doors in the world of user-centered UX and UI design solutions, presenting a harmonic balance between functionality and beauty.