Carl Rutherford Written by

Flat Design: just a design trend or that little bit more?

Posted on 24th October, 2013 in Brand, Design, Development

With the release of iOS 7 the discussion of flat design has been popular around the Cargo studio. It has us posing the question; is it the latest design trend to take its grip upon the design industry or does the root of this latest trend go deeper than that.

When iOS 7 was announced it gained a lot of criticism from the design world. Many designers and developers said it was a bad move from Apple and that on the whole the design was unattractive. However since its release most of the negativity has been on the download speed and not the design. So does this mean that generally Apple’s attempt at conquering flat design has been a success. Either way, whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny it has been a big talking point.

Flat design combines bright colours and simple typography to create unique, clean and intuitive interfaces. Minimalism is a big part of the designs and the concept focuses on the content over the use of effects and embellishments. For me, the flat design comeback first got noticed when Microsoft applied it to their Windows interface. So much so you can often hear the words ‘a bit windows’ when discussing designs in the Cargo studio. At the time Microsoft needed to deliver a blow in its ongoing battle with Apple, so it’s ironic that the latest iOS design looks 'a bit windows'.

Good design is never a mistake; it should be considered, planned and when needed, challenged. This helps us create designs that work, that are useful and fit for purpose.


Good design is never a mistake; it should be considered, planned and when needed, challenged. This helps us create designs that work, that are useful and fit for purpose. Therefore I believe flat design has not came around by chance, in fact I think it has grown from the need for design to work and adapt across multi-platforms. In doing so it enhances the user experience and makes navigation simpler for the end user. Information can be transferred in a clear and concise manor with no unnecessary baggage. With this in mind it also allows the design to adapt across the platforms with as much ease as possible. We can’t deny that when used correctly flat design can be beautiful but this doesn’t mean we should force it upon every design. Just because it works well on some projects it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for them all. As designers it is our job to find solutions to problems not to fall into routines for our convenience.

Flat design tends to use 5 core elements; bright colour palettes, large typography, a minimalist layout, simple elements and no added effects. Some designers have branched out with what we call ‘almost flat design.’ This is where some effects are added to the design, for example the use of gradients or drop shadows to pick out certain elements on a page, for example, a call to action. ‘Almost Flat Design’ allows the designer more flexibility with a design and they have more freedom to create a more engaging user interface. I find it interesting that designers are already starting to play with the trend and that flat design is already starting to evolve.My personal belief is that flat design has developed from the need to embrace simplicity, convey messages quickly and ultimately create functional design. We live in a world where everyone wants access to information on the move, mobile and tablets are becoming a common sight in society. I attended a user experience event in which some of the BBC User Experience and Design team told us they are finding it is a 50/50 split across mobile and desktop. This shows us exactly why adaptive and responsive design is going to be key moving forward.

At Cargo we believe in and can see the benefit for building responsive, multi platform websites and we are beginning to find that our clients are too. I can’t say for sure that flat design will stand the test of time but its comeback has certainly injected another fresh approach into digital design.

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