18
May
14

Flat Design & The Way Forward

Over time, in an attempt to keep up with shifting Web design trends, advances in programming have often been adopted under the aegis of a more-is-better philosophy. That is, without regard to the most important issue: How these changes in design parameters affect the site’s ability to communicate effectively with consumers.

As a result, we have seen the proliferation of visual clutter compounded by a desperate, aimless engagement strategy, based on the premise that “something” on the home page ought to grab the attention of any given user.

By contrast, I see in the recent trend toward so-called “flat design” protocols, the potential to make Web design less mechanical and, by corollary, more effective. Furthermore, flat design delivers an effective way to communicate across the multiple access points—just as an increasing number of users take for granted as they glide unselfconsciously between desk- and laptop, tablet, and the device we still quaintly refer to as a “phone.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of flat design, the overview available at Awwwards and Webdesigner Depot will give you all the orientation you need for the moment.

Examples of flat design on view at Design Razzi offer an unscientific sample that nevertheless illustrate its potential to improve digital communication across the board. To be clear, underlying this purely visual point of departure is an equally important shift in communication strategy. That is, toward an effortless rolling out of content that allows the brand’s deep message to speak for itself at a measured pace.

A few examples are enough to illustrate the positive principles at work here.

Inviting.
 Uncluttered, elegant, Munchery.com succeeds due to careful attention to proportion, spacing and line lengths. Additionally, it translates effortlessly to mobile display, enabling the on-the-fly decision making that, as I see it, has emerged as the centerpiece of 21st century popular culture.

 Just as important, the design calls attention to the offerings, not to itself. You get the feeling you’ve arrived at the right place for intriguing dining without any intermediary artifice required to “welcome” you there.

Considering this is also an e-tail site, I see it as a definitive step in the right direction. Here, online shopping continues the brand narrative, driving the deep message all the way home—again without needing an extra layer of promotional metacommunication.

Overriding these accomplishments, see how flat design, by doing away with conventional grid structures, allows language to flow according to its own principles, instead of being treated as merely another design element—and a pesky one at that—whose irregular contours threaten to make a hash of the most carefully planned pixel-width metrics.

Focused.
The elegant branded experience created by bicycle manufacturer Archie Wilkenson stands out for way it focuses its attention on the product—as opposed to promotional clutter. With text an image set out in a spacious array, features and benefits speak for themselves.

Naturally, in such a niche market context, you might assume simplicity is easier to achieve, because the impetus to include “no money down” sales talk is largely absent. In fact, however, there’s no reason to assume that limited promotional incentives could not be easily integrated into this site. It would simply be done without star bursts, flickering arrows, or jiggly banners.

Readable.
Finally, a site like Zirtual.com shows how flat design integrates video (scroll down) into a coherent visual flow. Video is available as an option you can access at your own pace—absent coercive promotional lingo, or moronically redundant instructional copy.

Here again, the site makes an easy transition to mobile, even on a 5” screen. especially important in this context, as the services offered target people too busy to deal with everyday life in real time.

And in clear refutation of the claim “people don’t read online,” this site’s response is unmistakable: “they will if the text is actually allowed to flow naturally as language, rather than confined to design-regulated copy blocks.”

Sure, you can adapt the length, style, the tone, the vocabulary the pacing, the rhythm of the text to match any audience model. But if you want consumers to read your content, you must display it in a legible format. As I see it, this aspect of flat design in the broadest sense offers a way forward to a far more effective and memorable Web experience.

From the most practical book-your-hotel functionality to the most elegant niche marketing scenarios, the improvement these protocols make in clarity and speed of communication have arrived just in time to meet the current rapid shift toward mobile computing. More to the point, they succeed by creating the first truly digital visual vocabulary in a way that humanizes digital communication for the first time.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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