As you are well aware, design trends come and go and I wanted to fill you in on what is trending in design now. Meet Flat Design and Skeuomorphism. Both trends play a similar game, but use different techniques to achieve the same goal.
The Flat Design Trend
You could say Apple started the push for simplicity in web design, but it’s been a search for minimalism since the web was invented. The question we answer on a daily basis with our designs is: how can I get my message out there in the clearest possible way? Why follow a design trend in the first place? Because we are human and it is safe to use a tried and true and popular method of design to feel like a part of the community, that’s why!
Flat design is intended to relinquish the frills we have become accustomed to seeing, no drop shadows, muted colors, bold type, readability, minimalism. What was once busy has been replaced with wide open white / muted space and beautiful, legible type which makes your eyes dance across the page, helping you easily find what you are looking for.
There are drawbacks to flat design as well though. If every site moved in this direction, the ability to stand out and be unique would be impossible, as this style has such tight constraints placed on it. There are rules when it comes to flat design: only using a few muted colors, sticking to one or two standard type faces, no drop shadows, no texture. If you step outside these bounds you can guarantee to be shunned by the community as a designer. Pulling bits and pieces of flat design in your newest project is a no no, you have to go all out with Flat.
Some designers have done great work with Flat UI (user interface) design. It now seems every app coming out these days is following the Flat UI design principles, because at such a small screen resolution, it just looks beautiful and is a pleasure to use. For a great example of these techniques in action, look no further than the group who started it all – LayerVault (http://layervault.com)
Skeuomorphism Design Trend
Skeuomorphism is literally a design on an object made to resemble another material or technique. You add a drop shadow to a box on your site to resemble the presence of light in your design. You add a wood texture to a block to make it look like your site was constructed with man made materials. This process is used to make the site you are visiting feel familiar to you by incorporating ordinary materials you interact with every day. Texture, light and colors all draw the user in and make the site feel alive, like you could reach into the screen and touch it.
Why use this technique then? Site design and navigation can seem complicated to an untrained user, if you incorporate objects into your design that they are already comfortable with, it gives the user a sense of comfort that they do not feel on other sites. This allows them to calm down and explore, ultimately viewing much more of your site than intended, which is always a good thing. A beautiful example of Skeuomorphic technique can be seen here – Gnosh.co.uk (http://www.gnosh.co.uk/)
I think it’s important to keep in mind that visual styles are just tools, and not goals in themselves. My choice between the two would be Flat design as it is inherently superior, in the way that I favor minimalism in design. If on the off chance you are a realist at heart and love the natural world, then Skeuomorphism is the way forward in design for you.
If you have any other great examples of these two techniques, feel free to leave a comment below.