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Agreed, design has been commodified, somewhat.
More so, what I also see driving the trend is the design acumen of the general public tends to be higher these days.
Expectations are higher, and thus, the market has responded with more of a focus on design.
Something that is well designed (function + aesthetic) is the mere baseline for participation these days. As the article states, design has been commodified. It's becoming the running water and plumbing of our experiences with software, hardware and objects.
But, I believe we're still getting started and that it has not necessarily fallen flat.
However, I don't see a point in separating visual design this way.
Visual design shoulders a job.
There is something similar to a Moore's Law for Human Computer Interaction I've observed over the years.
That the ability of the general public to spot and use and the multitude of interaction design patterns, that ability to spot, learn and use these patterns tends to rise exponentially.
If you would have told me 12 years ago that touch interfaces would proliferate the planet the way they have, I would have never believed it.
The idea that billions of people on this planet now know how to touch a screen, pinch and zoom on that screen, double tap for menus, swipe for carousels and so on, well -
That's a very radical human adaption based on the scale and depth of adoption.
Perhaps we take that adaptation for granted.
Small children regularly touch dumb laptop screens and computer monitors and declare them - "BROKEN!" - as the dumb screens fail to recognize their swipes, pinches and zooms.
Their expectations and imaginations will blow ours out of the water.
This is all just the beginning - and the notion that visual design has fallen flat, while their is redundancy, is a bit extreme when looking at the road ahead.
From interfaces that unlock the ambient intelligence around us, to gesture to boring old mouse and keyboard interfaces, we've got a long way to go and it's wide open territory.
Excellent comment, thanks for taking the time. You're absolutely right about the link between interaction and aesthetics. None of the aesthetic cleanliness of today's UIs would be possible without gestural touch: not needing to include scrollbars, zoom buttons, pagination arrows, etc. has indeed been a huge enabler of this new, more minimal style.
I share your optimism about the possibilities of the future too. I was actually trying to suggest in the article that we do have a wide-open set of possibilities, and that restricting ourselves to one narrow style is restrictive. I can't want to see what we've got today flourish and develop into a multitude of styles.
I really respect the thinking coming out of Intercom and have been following the blog closely for awhile now.
Great stuff, and good on you all for pushing thinking forward on design.
One other point I forgot to bring up, which I feel is fueling a lot of the same, sameness of design on the web is this -
Photography is going through another renaissance in my opinion.
Especially on the web and that is being reflected in a lot of site designs out there, which focus on typographic integrity and simply excellent presentation of images.
Nothing wrong with that if the images are quality and relevant.
There has been (luckily) quite a backlash against stock photography.
However, even all the "Stock Photo Sites That Don't Suck" are seeing massive repetition across the web, and thus, becoming more noise than inspiration, more noise than communication due to the redundancy of images.
So that's another thing - "stock photos that look custom".
On the flip side, I know personally, I wouldn't even consider a web project where there is not appropriate attention and budget allocated for custom photography.
I avoid any stock period, at all costs.
And as designers, I see us having to get involved more with the creative direction of photography and having that creative direction as a key part of the design process for certain types of projects.
From how we collaborate with photographers and customers and define the subjects and compositions of the shots, which will inhabit our creations to color grading shots and processing them - careful consideration in this area can result in stellar work.
Finally, a book recommendation.
Check out - The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion in order to expand your thinking framework on this topic of contributing to the process of creating photography.
Where the design community meets.
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