Flat (a four letter word)

July 23, 2014 Jalapeno Creative

Everything on Earth is cyclical. What’s old is new. Today’s trend is a reactionary development to Yesterday’s. Look around – are beards finally on the way out? What about artisanal coffee, when did that happen and when will it end? Chefs are the new rockstars, but perhaps it’s worth waiting a couple of years before you turf your Gibson  – your crappy rendition of Stairway to Heaven will be popular again one day, just don’t make me listen to it.

The same thing applies to design. People talk about “flat” design. It’s clean, it’s cool. Bright colours replace heavy textures, sharp geometry eclipses organic shapes. Neat-o, burrito.

But it is not and never will be a core design element or principle. Typography. Composition. Colour. Shape. Point. Flat? Not even close

Flat design, much like the hyper realistic skeuomorphism that preceeded it, is an attractive trap to snare the inexperienced. Skeumorphic design will be back eventually – politicians lie, bond gets the girl and trends always come back.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

It’s time to stop making flat design. In fact, it’s time to stop making short, tall, big small, red or blue design.

Just. Make. Good. Design. Yep, that’s about it.

As designers we spend so much of our day testing brands across a vast array of media and contexts. Is this font readable on a business card? A billboard? Upside down and on fire? That’s all well and good, but time is an often overlooked design consideration – how will it look in 10 years? 200? What about if drop shadows and rainbow gradients are in vogue*, what then? Is your brand futureproof?

I’m tired of seeing last week’s design labelled as “dated”, and exhausted with identities being routinely being rebuilt from the ground-up. Strong, well conceptualised brands should only really require slight tweaking. Apple? Shell? McDonalds? All of these identities have iterated progressively since their inception, passively flowing with contemporary trends but never to such a degree that anyone would ever notice. It’s like trying to become popular in school; you can’t just show up with muffins and expect sudden adoration from your peers and the pretty blonde girl’s number. They’ll forget you once the muffins are gone and odds are the blonde gave you a fake number**. Sporadic and inconsistent change denotes insecurity, both in frustrated students and brands.

The point? All brands deserve to be designed for timelessness, not to fit in with this month’s trend. As a client, you’re not getting what you paid for if you look at your brand a year down the track and think “maybe it’s time for an update”. You deserve better.


*Hopefully never.
**It still hurts.