13 comments

  • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    The similarity of these visuals helps establish the counterpoint to many of Eli's posts: that he's touting a specific visual design style as inherently more effective than all others (specifically demonizing flat design and minimalist UI), placing anything that isn't realist skeumorphism into a no-no box of incompetence. His apocalyptic rhetoric makes this whole dialogue a little difficult to start.

    I don't think we need a box at all. I believe the designs he has shared may be contextually effective icons and UI elements, but their visual style doesn't supersede the effectiveness of all others. In theory they are no better, no worse. It's all about appropriateness.

    If you look at the history of art, illustration, and design, the introduction of modernism penetrated each of these practices in different ways which provide good frameworks for discussion around his repeated points. The history of Iconography and symbolism are also useful to examine these topics. Taken to the extreme, Eli's preference would require us to have the map of the United States on the US flag, and photos of toilets to represent a restroom (or glass doors?) and replace bathroom signs.

    I like the examples he's shared but they're all still abstracted representations of something else, so I don't understand why we need to put a catch-all cap on the appropriate level of abstraction, and why it must be so close to the realistic. Since the representation is not the thing itself, why should it look exactly like it so long as it is actually represented?

    Image alt Ceci n'est pas une icône.

    26 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 4 years ago

      …he's touting a specific visual design style as inherently more effective than all others (specifically demonizing flat design and minimalist UI),

      If you’re taking minimalism to the point where essential elements have been removed, you are making your design less effective.

      I like a lot of the current trends, and it’s great to explore the boundaries of what’s comfortable, but I find many current software designs far harder to use than their predecessors. That’s not a good thing.

      Taken to the extreme, Eli's preference would require us to have the map of the United States on the US flag, and photos of toilets to represent a restroom (or glass doors?) and replace bathroom signs.

      Did we read the same article?

      5 points
      • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, 4 years ago

        Thanks for the reply, Marc! I believe I agree with your point, however my impression is that his series of posts (including this one) suggest that effective icons and interfaces require much more than the essential elements.

        My extrapolation was implying that he's asking icons and visuals to be as realistic as possible. In Eli's previous articles (including the title of this one) he tends to speak in extremes, so I played devils advocate in the extreme.

        I think his point that we need to remain conscious of how representative our representations are matters, but I'm not sure I agree to the necessity towards near-realism. Overall I enjoy his articles and think they're great for starting worthwhile conversation.

        2 points
        • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

          I think his point that we need to remain conscious of how representative our representations are matters, but I'm not sure I agree to the necessity towards near-realism. Overall I enjoy his articles and think they're great for starting worthwhile conversation.

          I don’t know Eli’s motives, but that’s what I read into these articles as well. I think he just wants the conversation to happen. And I think that’s a good thing. Current trends are marching the entire design industry towards homogenous results. That’s not healthy. I’m sure it will right itself, but the conversation isn’t a bad one to have.

          My extrapolation was implying that he's asking icons and visuals to be as realistic as possible.

          My personal take is that different executions suit different scenarios. I’m not really for or against anything.

          Having said that, removing borders on text based buttons is taking things too far for me (I think indicating tap regions is vital). We’ve witnessed a pretty severe reset on software deign. That’s been positive and negative. I really don’t mind some articles outlining the benefits of the old ways.

          4 points
          • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

            Great points, Marc! I agree-- I'm not for or against anything specific here either, which is what I was attempting to articulate here:

            I believe the designs he has shared may be contextually effective icons and UI elements, but their visual style doesn't supersede the effectiveness of all others. In theory they are no better, no worse. It's all about appropriateness.

            I also am thrilled with the idea of a dialogue about such things, and think we can't necessarily have meaningful discussions around design theory through cheap list-icles or 140 character statements. I commend him for writing about his thoughts.

            0 points
  • Cory W.Cory W., 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    I guess we just like different things.

    ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    7 points
  • Kat Bak, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    While I respect this guy and love reading his writing and opinions, there's times he goes way overboard with how he talks about it and the language he uses.

    For example, in this one he implies that flat/material design/illustration is tantamount to abandoning "using any art altogether". Like, really? Let's look at the principles of art: movement, harmony, variety, rhythm, unity, emphasis, balance, proportion, pattern. Where is 'texture' or 'realism' or 'skeuomorphism' in there? This flat or material aesthetic is just a style, such as the type of work he enjoys is a style. It is still art, and it is an art to create it. It's like saying Rembrandt is art but Mondrian isn't. It's simply not true. Styles change, new ones emerge, it doesn't mean the other ones are no longer styles of art, or artistic practice. That is ludicrous.

    Another example? In his blog 'Mirror Images Part II" he takes aim at Facebook and their attempt to clean up the 'friends' icon, whilst subtly promoting a little equality (because yes "symbols are important")(the original article is here: https://medium.com/@caitlinwinner/how-we-changed-the-facebook-friends-icon-dc8526ea9ea8). Schiff spurts that it is an "unnecessary attempt to appeal to a mass audience" and thus "Facebook continues to remove all individuality from its brand." I fail to see where rounding out some corners and jagged paths results in the complete dismissal of individuality. Jagged paths and angles which, might I add, are harsh and barely legible at the size the icon is presented. Rounding corners isn't an appeal to the masses or removal of individuality, they are more visually and psychologically pleasing, and fit more in line with their brand and style. (edit: prior comment regarding attack on attempted equality removed - Schiff didn't target this at all).

    I agree with Drew Albinson - his apocalyptic language is getting too hard to stomach. I respect and enjoy his writing, and hearing a different point of view. But it's delving into some Gamergate-level dramatic us-vs-them rhetoric which is far too juvenile for me to entertain.

    7 points
    • Mitch De CastroMitch De Castro, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      I like his writing and I can understand the issue of flat design as a broad thing, but I'll say that his use of Twitter as a playground for criticism doesn't help. Rude comments on here aren't constructive, but I'm not sure screenshots and public shaming are any better. And while he seems so eager to demean DN, he encourages upvotes whenever his articles get posted. Weird.

      When it comes to this (dying) debate over UI aesthetics, I'd like to see some numbers. I'm not convinced that anyone is totally wrong, but if the argument is that skeuomorphism = better UX, then where are the A/B tests? Whether it's flat or not, I always found it kinda silly when these conversations about advocating better experiences for "users" seem to just be among otherdesigners.

      2 points
      • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, 4 years ago

        I also would like to see further testing into this. It's a difficult thing to test as connotations are so dominant in symbolism and iconography. If you've seen an abstracted icon a million times does that mean it's more familiar than the more representative ones? The many hamburger icon tests would like to think not. It's an idea worth pursuit.

        1 point
  • John MorrisJohn Morris, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    1st off, Thank you Eli for writing something vaguely positive for a change.

    One of the only remaining fields of UI design in which expressive depth is not yet forbidden is video game design.

    You can't really compare video ui game design and functional app interfaces. Video games are art, so it makes sense for the ui to match the art style and aesthetic of a game. If facebook's ui went all steampunk i doubt you would be praising it, even though it might be perfect in the context of a game.

    4 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 4 years ago

    I think Eli has made his point now. He's not a fan of the 'Flat' style.

    Styles have always come and gone with fashion over the years. Some colours may be in right now, that doesn't meant their better or worse than other colours, it's just a passing trend.

    All of his posts could be summed up with the advice: use whatever style is the the most appropriate to your audience and don't sacrifice affordance to in the name of style.

    2 points
  • Alec LomasAlec Lomas, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    I appreciate the more positive tone of this article -- even if there still is an undercurrent of negativity (dismissal, even) towards flat/minimal/modernist design.

    I think the main thing bothering me about Eli's articles is their shallowness. He's merely presenting vaguely related examples out of context, with a sentence or two saying 'flat design sucks and these things look alike' or 'I like extruded buttons and hyper-detail'. If his point is that homogeneous design is bad, and doubly so for designers, I might agree with him. (Though, if everything looks and works the same, does that not reduce cognitive load? A question for another time perhaps.) However, the argument is never made or explored, only inferred and insinuated.

    I don't need a 20-page manifesto, but engage the subject matter critically. Write more than two sentences about what could actually be an interesting compare and contrast. Dive a bit deeper. Start the conversation you clearly want to have, and present it as such: a place from which a debate can begin.

    2 points
  • Drew BeckDrew Beck, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Well I wanted Eli to present some stuff he likes and he did it. So that's good. But it's pretty thin and, I think, also shows some of the gaps in his self-awareness.

    The Stripe examples he gives are nice illustrations. The rest of the Stripe site is pretty much flat design 101. I do like the way that Stripe is using depth (a little bit on some of the buttons, 'realistic' illustrations with shadows). In fact I'd argue that the use of the flat design aesthetic on the rest of the site is what makes those little 3D touches so successful. If the whole site was 3D these touches would get lost.

    Stripe is not the evidence against flat that Eli would hope.

    His pointer to James McDonald is likewise suspect. Lovely work, no doubt, but very much rooted in the flat design aesthetic. There are touches of depth, absolutely, but they are very subtle. Again, it is the backdrop of flat that gives these touches their power.

    Ach! Is this really what Eli likes? Is this his point, that we can bring a little bit of well-placed depth to make great UIs? Material Design (along with plenty of work by other designers) has already shown the efficacy of this, and I think most forward-thinking designers are already rocking this. And, more to the point, it doesn't jibe at all with the apocalyptic tone that he's pushed throughout his work.

    (I find his game UI examples to be non-sequiturs. The amount of stuff you need to do in a game UI is tiny and you do it so rarely that it's concerns aren't in the same category as functional, every-day UIs. And a 3D spaceship and a flower illustration? Wholly unrelated to his past screeds.)

    1 point