Magazine article Marketing

Techknow

Magazine article Marketing

Techknow

Article excerpt

The flat-design movement is gaining momentum, but isn't right for all markets, writes Adam Powers.

Sir Jony Ive revealed his vision for Apple's iOS7 operating system on 10 September, and the company's senior vice-president of design's vision of the world is flat.

This redesign is about more than just eradicating embossed buttons and drop-shadows. In typically thoughtful mode, Ive declared: 'True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter.' For the first time in perhaps a decade, though, Apple is joining a movement, rather than creating one.

The flat-design movement has been gaining momentum among technology companies for some time. It may well have been the Microsoft Windows 8 design team that pushed things past the tipping-point. It created a crisp, clean and minimalist approach, where geometric shapes, bold colours and sharp corners dominate the rather nice operating system. The next flat-design fan was Google, with its new aesthetic applied across a dramatically improved suite of applications (Google Maps, I adore you.) Then came Yahoo's elegant weather app, but many others have followed.

Like many art and design movements, flat design was a reaction to the dominant aesthetic that preceded it. Skeumorphism - the approach that borrows affordances from a user's day-to-day life and translates that to screen-based design with the aim of aiding comprehension. All the stitched leather, aqua-shine and drop-shadow of the past few years was borne from that belief. It goes back further, to the days of WYSIWYG PC desktops where the workplace norms, such as files, folders and trash cans, were employed in the language of the operating systems to help us comprehend and participate in the desktop-computing revolution.

Fans of this flat aesthetic cite this change as a sign of the maturity of human and computer interaction. Our interaction with technology no longer needs to be disguised to make it more palatable. Flat design embraces the constraints and challenges of screen-based design and runs with it: minimalist and utilitarian design that forgoes excessive ornamentation and is sensitive to bandwidth and functionality.

Before I get caught up in adulation of this latest expression of modernism, we should pause. It would seem that flat design might come with risks. That (once?) esteemed voice of digital usability, Jakob Neilsen, has undertaken extensive user-testing focused on everyone's must-have tech - the tablet. …

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