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Flat Design 101: Things You Should Know

In this article, we will talk about flat design. You’ve probably heard about it because it’s been one of the main trends in design for many years already. Let’s take a closer look at this trend and get to know what it is, where it comes from, and what you need to do to create a clean, clear, and responsive flat design!

  1. Know What Flat Design is

Flat design is a modern minimalist style of user interface and graphic design, which uses minimal elements and excludes every kind of complex colour, gradients, highlights, and other glossy, textured, dark effects.

Flat design is the direct opposite of skeuomorphism and rich design. However, I can’t say no that flat design is not as simple as it may seem. This could still include some features of skeuomorphism, but we’ll talk about that a little later.

All in all, the flat design helps to focus more on the content, without distracting the viewer in terms of visual effects. It emphasises the simplicity of the elements and at the same time makes the display more responsive, faster, and easier to use.

  1. Understand the Historical Concept of Flat Design

Flat design is known to have been used long before it became a big trend in the design community in Singapore. It was widely used in the ’80s because the technology was not yet able to create and support complex effects, textures, and shapes. However, even in recent years, designs tend to appear first and with simple skeuomorphic features, trying to look like real-life forms.

Flat design, as we see it today, started to gain popularity after Microsoft released its so-called Metro design style product. Metro is a UI design language created by Microsoft and overall, it’s simple, clean, and modern.

In 2010, Microsoft released Windows Phone 7, which used a simple, flat UI design with sharp edges and clear graphics, inherited from one of Microsoft’s previous products (Zune). Then, inspired by its success, Microsoft released Windows 8 OS, based on the same Metro-style flat design graphics.

Finally, flat design reached its peak of popularity in 2013, when Apple launched iOS 7, bringing its new design and completely revamping all previous UI elements, including icons and fonts. They create very descriptive guidelines on UI and icon design.

Soon after, Google also restyled its web pages and apps to flat design, renaming it Material Design. Google has a whole section dedicated to Material Design, including great goals, principles, and guidelines for creating material icons, UI, layouts, and so on.

Since then, flat design has become a key direction in design over the past few years, when it comes to making websites, apps, and design elements elegant, neat, and stylish.

  1. Keep it Simple

Flat design is named for the absence of three-dimensional elements and effects, such as gradients, textures, lighting, overtones, and shadows. Flat style is the visualisation of two-dimensional objects. In addition, complex objects tend to be greatly simplified and customised. Sometimes we only describe the silhouette or outline that makes the actual object recognisable, without the small details.

Minimalism is a global trend today, and the simplicity of form and the use of sharp edges emphasise neat and visually appealing designs. Simple forms are easier to understand and easier to see make the design pieces look minimalistic and clean, avoiding the cluttered and cluttered look.

  1. Make it Perfect

When it comes to flat icons and UI elements, it is necessary to make them look as coherent, accurate, and pixel-perfect as possible. This is important for raster and vector graphics.

In this case, everything is clear with Adobe Photoshop, because it works with pixel-based raster graphics.

When you start using Adobe Illustrator, it’s a vector graphics programme, which deals with lines and curves, called vectors, that are drawn mathematically. Some time ago, Adobe Illustrator was not so easy to create pixel-perfect graphics. The good news is, the latest version of Adobe Illustrator has become a great tool for designers to handle pixel-perfect graphics.

Moreover, vector graphics implies working with flat and simple shapes with different colours and grids. Adobe Illustrator is very flexible in terms of settings and allows you to change Units, customise Guides and Grids to your needs, align objects and use different types of Snapping. All of this makes it easier to create pixel-perfect designs that stay fresh and clean on any display. If you’re targeting pixel-perfect graphics, be sure to check out this great guide to creating pixel-perfect artwork in Adobe Illustrator.

  1. Pay Attention to Accent Colours & Trends

One of the most specific features of flat design, apart from its shape, is the use of colour. Most colour palettes for flat style elements consist of a few basic colours. Bright, bold, vibrant, and saturated colours are essential for flat designs.

Colour schemes in flat designs are not limited to a few specific colours. It includes a variety of colours and patterns and depending on what you’re describing, whether it’s a bright candy icon or a retro-styled thing in a subtle retro palette.

If you’re a seasoned designer and you have an eye for the right colour palette, you can play around with Photoshop or Illustrator’s Colour panels, picking colours just by guessing. However, this process requires good intuition, practise, and skill. And there are a few tools that might come in handy for building the right palette.

Some of them are suitable for all kinds of designs and illustrations, not just for flat designs. Following is the Adobe Colour CC service, formerly known as Kuler. Now you can access it through the website or directly from Adobe products. It is a very flexible tool, which allows you to create your palettes or use various user-created palettes from the library.

Another simple and useful palette generator is Coolors. Just hit the space bar and colour your various palettes, which can be customised and exported.

There are several other similar services with custom palettes that can help. However, there is one that is made specifically for flat designs. FlatUIColors.com by Designmodo Is a series of flat colour swatches with hex codes, which are very convenient to use. It has become very popular among designers looking for colour for pixel-perfect designs. And you can also find a wide variety of colours and palettes in Google’s Material Design guide.

  1. Long Shadow

As noted above, flat design tends to be simple and elegant — which is why it refuses to use a wide variety of effects. However, there is one effect that emerges from the flat design. This is becoming a trend and one of the important features.

We’re talking about the long shadow effect. It has several distinctive features that make this effect recognisable. It’s a 45-degree angle and large (the shadow should be about twice as long as the object). As a result, long shadows carry further into the flat design.

Such an effect makes objects look more three-dimensional, while still keeping the display flat.

  1. Working With Fonts

Typography plays a huge role in flat design. Often, the text becomes the main element of the composition, although the flat-style elements do not distract the viewer.

Simple typography is usually used in flat designs, making the entire design piece look clean and easy to read. You can find many free fonts in Adobe Typekit if you use Adobe products. Otherwise, Font Squirrel is a great source of free fonts to suit any taste. Make sure you read the licence first if you need to choose a font for commercial use.

Most designs in a flat style tend to use capital letters and contrasting colours, making the text easier to read.

Choose the font carefully. This should be emphasised in the overall design and make sure it looks like it fits, without making it look like an odd element. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use Serif fonts or some complex handwritten fonts with swirls and extra elements. Stick to a minimalist look and keep things balanced. However, the most successful flat designs use Sans Serif fonts more often, as they are straighter and tighter, as all elements of the illustration are flat.

  1. Understand the Pros & Cons of Flat Style

While the flat design has become so popular due to its various advantages, it still has some drawbacks, which designers face when working with this style. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of flat design.

  • Pro
  • Trend

Flat design has grown into a trend, garnering a lot of positive attention among designers and web designers, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to lose its place. Instead, it spreads more and more and acquires some new forms and features, gradually turning into something more creative.

  • Simplicity

The flat design is simple, minimalistic, and clean. When it comes to websites, flat designs help you to focus more on the content, not on the distracting visual effects. This also works for mobile app interfaces: the clean design with large flat buttons makes it perfect for working on mobile devices.

  • Intense

The use of colour is another big plus of flat design. Bright and bold colours look attractive and clean, and the lack of gradation makes the design look modern. What’s more, such clean colours make it look more positive and attractive, creating the right mood.

  • Cons
  • Not Responsive

Sometimes, the lack of additional details or visual effects makes it very difficult to create an easy-to-use and user-friendly interface, which makes the overall design unresponsive. Not all users are comfortable with this design, as it may be difficult to find clickable elements on a web page or elements you need to touch in a mobile application, as they are not interactive.

  • Typography Problem

As mentioned, not all fonts are flat designs. Sometimes some designs like bold and straight letters look very balanced and stylish. However, choosing the wrong typography can cause total damage to your design. You need to get a feel for which fonts are suitable for flat designs and which are not. Weak typography skills can make it very difficult to choose the right font.

  • Weak Visuals

Due to the limited use of effects, colours, and fonts, a flat design may look too simple and unattractive. Minimalism can also be the biggest downside—they all end up looking the same. It’s a bit difficult to make your icon or web page different from other people’s designs because we use simplified simple shapes, a limited colour palette, and similar fonts. As a result, in the course of a flat design can look boring.

  1. Explore the Future Trends in Flat Design

Flat design in Singapore cannot be called fully formed and developed. Perhaps because of its weaknesses, as described above, it tends to transform and develop, acquiring new features and visual enhancements.

If you take a closer look at the latest examples of flat design, you may notice that it deviates from its strict model and begins to add subtle effects, such as gradients (non-contrast), shadows, highlights, and other visual enhancements.

What happens is that these decorations add depth to the design, without making it look too overly detailed, as skeuomorphic designs sometimes do. These small enhancements make flat designs more responsive and comfortable and bring a fresh look, making them more versatile and diverse.

As a result, the flat design does not seem to lose its characteristics; On the contrary, it becomes more interesting, more flexible — in fact, for the better.

  1. Finding a Way to Get Started

So you’re ready to dig into the flat design and can’t wait to start creating some flat assets! We agree that this process is both exciting and challenging, whether you’re creating isolated objects or complete flat scenes, including group elements.

If you want to try making flat illustrations, it’s a good idea to start with a small set of icons, which are related to the same topic. And when you get comfortable with these techniques, move on to more complex illustration or try another area of design, applying your new knowledge of flat graphics in creating web templates with flat or banner styles.

We hope you’ve found some new information from this article or at least found it interesting and inspiring. You should give a flat design a try if you haven’t tried it before.

If you like flat designs, and if you like straight shapes, vibrant colours, sharp fonts, and an overall clean and minimalistic look, then go for it!

Melisa Kartal

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