Less is More: What is Flat Design? - Insights

Less is More: What is Flat Design?


3 minute read

When a website calls for a simple approach, flat design presents an enticing and brilliantly minimal answer.

Effects like drop shadows, bevels, gradients and texture fall to the side, eliminating any three-dimensional attributes to create a delightfully sparse solution. Microsoft’s Metro design for Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox was among the first to shine a spotlight on the edgy yet elegant style, which, now on the heels of Apple’s iOS7 redesign, is converting brand after brand with its beautiful and modern simplicity.

As popularity soars, many believe that flat design is here to stay. It hones in on just a few key design elements to draw a viewer’s focus directly toward the most important thing – the content at hand.  Could it work for your brand?

Easy on the Eyes

Flat design is clean, simple and modern, which happens to be just the criteria that more and more businesses and brands want met these days. Less clutter and better use of negative space make for gorgeous websites that provide a heightened user experience and streamlined surfing. The result is a stronger effect, created with fewer tools.

UX Magazine seems to be in favor, saying that “By shedding unnecessary styling, [flat design] makes for speedier pages, cleaner code, and easy adaptability. It also lends itself beautifully to every type of application; whether viewed on a desktop or a mobile screen, flat design is always legible and adaptable.” Are you ready for a flat-out makeover?

Color Scheming

Bold and bright seems to be the direction of choice for many designers going with a flat look. Instead of sticking to the traditional one or two colors, in flat design three, four or more hues create a beautiful array of contrast that’s highly engaging and pleasing to the eye.

Other popular color schemes include retro and monotone mixes, which both retain some bright shade, usually muted with white, black and gray accents. Matching tones and saturation creates continuity when working with a diverse color palette – something to keep in mind during your next round of sketches.

Icons & Illustrations

For anyone looking to experiment, there are a ton of free online resources offering hundreds of icons to browse through, use and customize. A quick Google search will lead you to countless options, available in a dizzying array of styles, sizes and formats.

The talented and experienced designer can take the flat look to the next level by incorporating original illustrations. This takes serious skill to pull off, but when done well, can have powerful effects.

Typographical Hierarchy

Not everybody loves flat design. Critics question things like users’ ability to readily identify buttons or whether the overall look is dull and forgettable. Without heavy drop shadows and animated text, how are we supposed to tell where to push a button?

Designers who favor flat give their audience the benefit of the doubt, and the best ones ensure clarity by creating a strong visual hierarchy. Typography is an important tool here; combining the perfect font with the right colors is the essence of what makes really great flat design. Copy should mirror the minimalist layout – use as few words as possible to convey what you mean.

Pay close attention to spacing, size and line weights when it comes to type. Remember, flat design should be interesting to look at and easy to read. When it doubt, less is always more.

What are some of your favorite examples of sites gone flat?

By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor