Flat design is a style of graphics characterized by its minimalism.
The flat design is based on an aesthetic style, with simple shapes, modern typographies and a composition with readable elements.
The flat design is therefore characterized by a visual purification. To do this, we remove all the superficial elements of the interfaces. Shadows, reflections, various effects (smoke, shine, particles, etc.), details and plausibility go by the wayside. The goal of this style is therefore to have as few elements as possible and to remove the frills from a page (for example).
The very term “flat” design refers to this lack of volume: it is based solely on 2D images.
This graphic style, used by a growing number of websites, is an evolution of the artistic currents emerging in the 20th century. In particular the Bauhaus movement, which appeared in Switzerland around 1920.
The Bauhaus was already characterized by:
its significant contrasts,
its optimization of the occupation of space
and its use of simplified symbols rather than plausible images.
This design style has therefore evolved and is now used by many designers and graphic designers to create:
The characteristics of flat design
We know what flat design is, but how do we make sure we recognize it?
There are several elements that do not deceive:
Transparency effects on the different graphic elements,
Shapes and geometries inspired by the Bauhaus movement,
No relief or depth on the design,
Very little analogy with real world objects represented by flat design.
These 5 elements should help you recognize flat design for sure.
Flat design, heir to skeuomorphism
Often, flat design is associated with a palette of bright, solid colours. Patterns and gradients are rare.
Flat design is often compared to its 2000s counterpart, skeuomorphism. This is based on intuitive graphical representations. The idea behind this trend is to assimilate the function of something to a visual appropriated by the common imagination.
The flat design stands out for its simplicity. Where skeuomorphism creates an association between functionality and a known visual (which serves as a benchmark and reassures the consumer), flat design focuses on the effectiveness of its visual.
The flat design plays with the pre-established associations in collective thought thanks to skeuomorphism. Its objective is to simplify this visual information in order to keep its very essence.
Material design and semi-flat design: cousins of flat design
Material design is a movement seeking compromises between flat design and skeuomorphism.
Material design is a form of web design characterized by a happy medium aesthetic. Ideally, it benefits from the readability of the flat design and the intuitiveness of skeuomorphism.
This trend was born out of protests against flat design, considered too simplistic and no longer sufficiently representative.
Semi-flat design, on the other hand, is a variant of flat design using minimalist 3D to highlight certain elements, such as a call to action for example. Some see it as a kind of optimized flat design, to the detriment of the purity of the image.
The semi-flat keeps this very contrasting and colorful aspect of the flat design, with its simple shapes.
The addition of 3D, however, allows the creation of more complex images.
THE APPLICATION OF FLAT DESIGN
Broadly speaking, flat design is commonly used in web and mobile interfaces because it is strongly equated with a modern aesthetic.
Brands also use it a lot in their logos. For the past ten years or so, there has been a trend among brands to simplify and refine their logos. This is particularly the case in fashion, for example.
It helps to modernize the image of a company or a digital product.
In this sense, flat design participates in the visual communication of the companies that use it. We recommend that you work with a graphic designer if you wish to do the same.
WHY USE FLAT DESIGN?
In our opinion, here are the two main trends to be aware of:
The flat design is more pleasing to the eye and more modern,
It simplifies a user interface and therefore simplifies the user experience.
Beyond that, flat design also accompanies a certain digital maturity that is taking hold. Skeuomorphism, which we mentioned earlier in the article, has allowed users to familiarize themselves with new digital tools.
Today, we have reached a stage of digital maturity which allows the use of more refined designs without risking compromising a good user experience.