Where we seem to be going

I don’t think I need to repeat the discussions around flat design and its recent iterations, but it’s a good starting point for where we seem to be going.

New design trends are often a reaction to where we’ve been. They are often an endeavor to break away from the popular crowd and establish a personal, or unique, identity. This is good. Design should be growing, evolving, and possibly even directing the way for future advancements. Recent evolutions in design brought us through skeuomorphism and into flat design. Flat design was an effort to remove all unnecessary embellishments while presenting the core elements themselves. Usability grabbed a hold of this and found flat design lacking, but still beautiful. So with a bit of guidance (user interaction difficulties), we were lead toward the ever popular semi flat design trend, or what we’ve come to know as Material Design from Google. And here we are. Things are flat, but include depth and variation in parts and systems providing the user with the right amount of feedback to ensure confidence with each interaction.

But design is still changing; sometimes it’s more reductive, and other times it’s brighter and gradient heavy. Complexion Reduction is one term used to explain the former. In that article, the author states that there are obvious steps to achieve complexion reduction in your design.

  1. Remove color
  2. Bolder headlines
  3. Simple, thin icons
  4. Triple the whitespace
  5. Make app icon brighter

Companies that have adopted this trend are Instagram, Airbnb, Apple Music, and Medium. The absence of color allows the content to shine forth, and the reductive UI moves everything to the back seat facilitating the transfer of information without cluttering the view. In fact, Progressive Reduction is another term used to explain how our UI can progressively become reductive through the course of a user’s interaction. To help new users, more information might be required at first, but as they become more familiar with the interface, elements can recede to the background or disappear completely.

Another interesting pattern is the usage of bright gradients. This trends appears to be more adventurous and expressive. While at one point in time, gradients were ushered out in favor of flat design, they’re definitely on the rise again and brighter than ever. Examples of this can be found on Stripe’s new website redesign, or Impossible Bureau’s website, or even at wpcrew.

These bright colors are often combined with geometric shapes like on Google’s Material.io website, or Abstract’s blog, and they’re being used in print design as well. Check out the Katowice Street Art pamphlets, or various other prints.

Overall, I love to see explorations in design, and I hope we don’t land on just one thing. Variety is beautiful. Be creative… and reductive in the most positive ways possible. And ultimately, don’t forget to design for the user.

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