Skeuomorphism. Say that three times fast. Don’t worry if you can’t, because hopefully that’s the last time you’ll ever hear it. Skeuomorphism is a visual style that tries to imitate real-world materials and textures. It was made popular by Apple when mobile was in its infancy. Today however, across every OS out there, Skeuomorphism is a fossil.
Flat Design has been the predominant trend in mobile UI for the past few years. As opposed to its predecessor, Skeuomorphic Design, Flat Design avoids any added effects to make the interface appear realistic or three-dimensional. Instead, the style is very minimalistic and distinctively two-dimensional. Embellishments such as bevels, embossing, drop shadows or artificial textures are absent altogether.
Principals of Flat Design center on a clear sense of hierarchy. The goal is to make interaction with your app very easy for users to understand and interact with.
Why the Growth
Mobile has driven, and will continue to drive, Flat UI design. Designing on small screens is especially challenging as mobile hardware evolves to include more and more functionality. A Flat interface makes it easier to interact with complex app functions.
Flat Design has sustained momentum over the past year, and will predominantly be the design approach in 2015. Below are the major evolutions we see going forwards.
Material Design shares many of the core principles of Flat Design. Developed by Google, this approach uses very subtle gradients, layering, and depth effects (such as lighting and shadows) to retain a sense of the tangible world, while still achieving all the advantages of Flat Design. Google’s Matías Duarte explained, “Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.” Although Material Design is relatively new, this progression in Flat Design will be predominate in 2015.
Another trend that will stay strong is the use of large, beautiful background images and videos. Fueling by development in device screen sizes and resolutions, today’s biggest brands are increasingly choosing to predominately display powerful, contextual imagery in their mobile apps.
Because Flat Design emphases simplicity, typography is an important component in design. Type preferences should also be simple and clean, and should create a sense of contrast in juxtaposition with the background. Most often designers are using a very limited number of typefaces (commonly opting for Sans-Serif or Helvetica), and using no more than a two font weights.
Finally, context will continue to be paramount in mobile design. Designing for in-the-moment activities, and facilitating the right actions in context is very important. App navigation should be implicit and intuitive to everybody.