What is flat design?

Apple were late to adopt flat design, introducing it only in iOS7

Word on the street is that phone and website interfaces are changing. Say goodbye to imitation apps that look like their real life counterpart and meet the new flat design, where features are presented in a much simpler, more subdued style. In a surprising role reversal, Microsoft has decided to experiment with this new trend with the launch of their new Windows 8 desktop, and Apple has followed suit with the imminent unveil of the new version of iOS, iOS7. But what exactly is flat design? In simple terms, it’s the removal of all the features that make the buttons and icons on your phone and computer screens look 3d. There are less shadows and textures and as a result, the screen looks flatter. Plenty of people have a lot to say about this new type of interface and these are the main arguments both for and against that have been outlined so far.


The beauty of flat design

The main argument to support flat design is that the features found on a computer device simply don’t need to resemble the real life version. A book app for example doesn’t need to assume the appearance of a novel, it just needs to function effectively. For those who like the concept of the flat design it works because in their view interfaces should be functional, not fancy. Flat design seeks to create an interface that is a lot more honest than its artistic predecessor and is focused on the simplicity of its usability. And it certainly has its benefits. There’s no denying that it’s effective in delivering information. After all, that should be the main purpose of a computer and going back to relative basics can re-enforce that. Removing the multiple dimensions also ensures that the screen remains uncluttered, giving it clarity and allowing you to browse for the function you need quickly. But like anything, where you have supporters of something new there are always those who see the flaws and are consequently harder to convince of its greatness.

The ugly truth

By removing all of the quirky, fun features that we have become so used to seeing on our phone and computer screens, the interface (to be brutally honest) becomes quite boring. All of the visual stimulus that was there before has gone and has been replaced with an overly-simple, unattractive desktop that has had all of its character sucked out. It could be argued that, whilst uncluttered, the interface is not necessarily easier to use as the features and icons do not stand out without the textures and dimensions making them unique. Instead, what you’re looking for is harder to spot as you’re looking at plain symbols on the screen. Although flat design is functional, it’s just not fun, and let’s be honest- do we really want functional 100% of the time?

Final word

Flat design works if you want less distractions, maximum functionality and an interface that is fuss free. But if you’re one of those users who like to look at interesting features on an interface that has more to it than an information screen, then flat design probably isn’t for you.