Ask DN: What will be the dominant UI style in 2014?
Most of us here have a pretty good idea of the backstory — as computer displays have increased in resolution, pixel density and colour support, UI designers have often made use of the hardware available. I believe this is why there’s been trend towards realism, for the entire story arc of computing thus far.
When you all you have are primary colours and chunky pixels, stylistic choices are going to be largely dictated to you.
But that’s not where we are now. We have 16,777,216 colours and pixels so small you can’t see them. We have so few technical constraints that we’re using physics engines to run UI animation, and we’re throwing particle systems into weather apps… you know, for delight. Or deference. Or something.
We’re at an inflection point.
The last few years have seen a surge in minimal design (no, I’m not going to use the F-word). Minimal design has always been popular, especially in print, but it’s hard to ignore the vice-like grip it had on UI design in 2013. I see that as a good thing. If nothing else, it has been a reboot for many of us. An acknowledgement that we don’t need to do things purely because we can.
Diversity is good, and designers should do what they feel is right for the time and the project. However, fashion tends to move as a herd and it is likely 2014 will be remembered by the design community for one or two prominent styles.
What pings your pong for 2014?
I personally feel that the pendulum may have swung a little too far back. I think we have lost some of the useful design cues realism provided. Elements can’t have any more stripped from them — they’re as bare as they can be. Plenty of buttons in 2013 didn’t even indicate their active region (oh, the humanity!).
However, slapping some realistic lighting onto a design is a great way to kick it back to iOS 6-ville. So, although I don’t think the future is entirely gradient-less and absent of lighting, I’m not sure what it looks like.
Do you think we’ll see a resurgence of detail in 2014 and beyond? Why?
Can I use gradients again?