I turn to magazine layouts when thinking about the future of the web. There has been some incredible, less-is-more design happening in the world of print for decades that doesn't all look the same. Making interesting layouts responsive, that is the real challenge.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. When I'm finished with work, I like to turn off all screens and read a magazine. It's refreshing to look at what's possible in layout/design when you're not limited to screen sizes. Now, the only thing we need to do is work magic and turn that into the same experience for a myriad of devices. :-/
Thanks for the comment. Taking more cues from print is definitely likely, if only because there's such a rich history there to draw on.
Also, software has temporal and interactive possibilities that print will never have, so there should also be much more possible.
Until e-paper arrives!
Actually these sentence sum up like 95% of website I see these day: "Stick a blurred photo in the background, lay some centered Helvetica Neue on top and you’re already halfway there!"
Totally! One trend I do like however is opening up layouts with an abundance of breathing room.
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.
The funny thing is that Material, despite having a flat aesthetic, free of gradients, patterns, and reflections, is actually bringing back skeuomorphism. The design system encourages shadows and depth, and elements such as the floating action button have a subtle highlight on the top edge. The goal being to create something tangible, but still modern.
most definitely! I love that the focus is no longer on how realistic we can make each image, but now how realistic we can make the experience. So native it feels like you're doing an action in person, not on a screen. I can't wait till everyone adapts this style that way it can progress!
I'm a huge fan of Material Design. I worked on the Android Design Team throughout the entire period it was being created, and witnessing it come together was a wonderful experience. It's incredibly well thought out. In some sense, I consider it a near-perfect conclusion to where software design has been going for the past few years.
But a logical conclusion always makes the more impatient designers out there wonder what might come next. Designers all over the world would do well to internalise and adopt the principles of Material Design, but a tiny slice of the very best designers in the world are already thinking about how to make it obsolete.
Flat design is really just 'design.' Skeuomorphims is the special case, and originally referred to digital design that tried to emulate actual objects and surfaces, like leather folios or stereo knobs. It is great that the web finally ditched the last vestiges of pre-2000 'codercentric' design leftovers, but does that mean we can now no longer use depth cues?
Everything is starting to look the same, and this goes for Material Design as well. The whole point of branding is to set yourself apart.
Although I do appreciate Google's attempt to codify interface design, I take it as a reference point and pull from its dedication to process and consistency.
I'm looking forward to design for VR
Totally. This is going to be really interesting. When I think of VR today my head is still stuck at the point of a glitchy, polygonal, Lawnmower Man, Shitpic aesthetic – not so easy to get excited about! But as one of the few genuinely new mediums that's developing quickly, it's likely to have a big influence.
And that influence will be felt beyond VR itself. As I mentioned in the article, so much of the design of desktop software today has been influenced by touchscreen UIs. What might a VR-influenced website look like?
Is Betteridge's Law of Headlines Obsolete? ;)
I've been thinking about this a lot too. However, when reading an old magazine or looking at late modernist posters it's clear that we web designers still only work with the basic techniques and that we all have a looong way to go if we want to fully master and push beyond the minimalistic language that "flat-design" really is.
It's not that we necessarily don't know how to do it, it's just that we haven't figured out how to bring this freedom to experiment when working with code and responsive layouts.
Personally I think originality is over-emphasised in design.
Even though many do, not all briefs require the product to stand out from a crowded market. I can relate to feeling a pressure to create something entirely new that will impress my designer friends but do real product users see it in the same way as we do?
I what the author is noticing is just web design maturing and finding the most effective and efficient ways of communicating with the technology available to it.
If you look at books and magazines although there are some amazingly original designs out there, most of them look very very similar, and I think thats ok.
We're also experiencing a bit of a backlash against the old fashioned approach of over investing in visual design, as more designers are turned on to the value of other practices in the field of UX design they realise that whilst visual design is needed its not the most important phase in most projects.
Fair points. What I was actually aiming for with the article was to think about what the opportunity cost of sticking with an established, safe style of design might be.
You're absolutely right that we should not reinvent the wheel for no good reason, and that the basic user experience should be top priority (at least IMO). But it's a mistake to be blinded by the best things that the present have to offer and think that things can't be improved.
If product design does indeed settle down into a comfortable uniformity that just stays the same forever, it will be the first time in the history of design that it's ever happened. :)
Are we talking product design? Are you judging the products or are you just judging the aesthetics of the marketing sites that accompany them?
I don't doubt that there are many original innovative design features within the projects themselves. But the visual style of the homepage doesn't always need to be a graphic design student's wet dream.
crazy that the comic term 'rimshot' has no rimshot in it, nor anything to do with one, other than the commonality of the snare drum.