Minimal and Modern come to mind.
How about reviving "minimal"? It's been used before, but it reflects the as-little-that-is-unnecessary as possible.
I agree. Flat implies shallow, thoughtless, etc.
Perhaps I'd bring up the points made in articles around the idea of 'flat design', being that this is not really something new. I don't think what we are approaching here is a new idea, just new in the sense of interactive design (a very young medium). Good design will be good design. I believe we will see more and more 'minimal' and 'modern' design as the field matures.
The boys at LayerVault addressed that idea, Bobby. And they called it 'Honest Design'. And then a lot of people disagreed with the idea of calling it honest over skeuomorphic design. I do agree with you though, the concept does seem to go beyond the established ideas of minimalism and modernism in design.
I like it. Unlike 'minimal' and 'modern' and 'honest' it isn't already a buzzword linked to another design discipline. 'Flat design' is uniquely evocative of the aesthetic. It's also nicely humble. Calling it 'web 3.0' or something similarly grandiose would be dreadful. To me, 'honest' veers a bit into grandiosity.
What about simply '2D Design'
That's essentially what it is: design for a flat medium, the screen. Instead of faking physicality and 3-dimensions with gradients, drop shadows, layering, etc, it works within the constraints of a flat medium using color, size, shape, typography, layout, proximity and time to communicate.
Adhering to the natural constraints of the medium is what makes it authentic or honest design.
@Judd but we're not naming it in a vacuum, and the first association most people will have is 3D 'design' (whatever that is). And then they'll wonder what the difference is.
Isn't a relevant question: why does this new wave of 'native digital' design even need a name? I mean, that would be a truly digital response to a digital phenomenon.
"It's more an animated print piece than an interactive piece."
@ericaheinz was commenting on the Mail Chimp annual report and I thought there is something there about the nature of "flat design".
It's more pure interactivity and LESS bound to physical metaphors. When you turn a page in a book, when you enter a new space, you MOVE there. With this Mailchimp design, "moving" to a new space just means a state change in the current frame.
There is something about this idea of physical-metaphor-less, pure interactive design, which is the real potential of ditching skeuomorphs. The flatness is just a popular aesthetic but the real value is the not the presence of flatness, but the absence of these crippling metaphors.
I feel like there are two separate ideas that you're fusing together here.
1) Flat design as an aesthetic - no gradients, no shadows, all vector shapes. This is a style, much like glossy, grungy, etc. It's in style now, could go out of style later.
2) Simple and minimal design as a concept. Regardless of the visual style, structuring your designs to contain only what's necessary and nothing more. I don't think this is a concept that will ever go out of style, although some may choose to use it and others may not.
@Casey The thread was about visual styling of interaction in a flat medium, I was just saying that the Mailchimp example doesn't actually have much interaction. Like a print piece, you just scroll through and read it; there are almost no clickable elements (which are the tricky bits in flat aesthetics).
I like that "honest" came up as a word, when I did my site completely flat 4 years ago, that was the rationale. The medium is pixels, and they don't have shadows; I wanted to convey honesty through a lack of illusion.
But are photos allowed in "flat" design? They have an alarming depth ;)
I'm calling it "true believer" design... "Belief in the absence of illusions is itself an illusion. —Barbara Harrison" ;)
I'm going to hop in and out of this thread by saying that I enjoy this Flat Designers Anonymous group, but I'm uncomfortable with the number of people and opinions here.
Talking about techniques is great and I'd love to see them... but one doesn't think deeply about the principles that guide his work by polling a lot of others. That makes me nervous... The result is invariably going to be a muddy middle ground formed around some consensus.
I'm going to further derail this thread for a second: Isn't the point of Branch to invite only a few people to chat around a topic? Kind of a clusterfuck happening up in here.
@allan this is a pretty esoteric topic which means the group is self selecting. I didn't feel a need to moderate it.
The point of Branch is still up for debate.
This group will inform my design process. Hopefully it will inform others. But it won't do the design work. If my work is good or crap I can neither credit nor blame this group.
So overall, I think it's a net positive.
@Derrick is spot on - "essential" designs conveys so much more than "flat"...and minimal carries a weighted connotation. But essential implies that you are stripping away only what is necessary to either convey the main narrative of the thing being designed and/or placing the focus singularly on the primary user objective of the thing being designed. Flat insinuates that the style is strictly visual, when really it's necessitated by the need to strip away bloat and unnecessary elements for more streamlined loading/resizing for different viewports over varying bandwidths.
And "honest design" sounds too pretentious.
I agree with Jeff - Flat design is an aesthetic. Why it and minimalism seems to go hand in hand, I have yet to figure out.
But if you're convinced to bunch the two together, I'd go for "neo-modernism", as pretentious as it sounds. Things like "honest" or "lean" are too subjective and easily misconstrued - The client decides he wants his company to appear "honest": Clearly he needs a site with Honest Design.
Or "The Natural Web Aesthetic". But that's not very catchy.
When I was in High School designing for the first time (gouache, plaka, etc) I leaned toward a flat aesthetic. It was in my nature to represent a subject rather than create a detailed replica of it. All of the fun in 'flat design' comes from the destruction process - taking as much information away as possible without hindering the recognizability of it. To me this 'flat' quality relates mostly to the lack of texture and information.
The term is overgeneralized and overused, but I was calling it 'flat' when I was 14 - before becoming a designer - because that's just what it was to me. Even if the niche design community comes up with a new word, 'flat' will likely remain status quo for anything that has solid colors and little information.
Just adding my take to the many interesting ideas: "flush design"
I think it conveys the meaning of flattening (or reducing) design to remove ornament, but also reflects the more seamless movement and interaction this type of design strives for.
When you make something flush you are often minimize as much friction as possible, and that seems like what "flat" design is trying to do for users as well.
My vote is for Modernist Design OR Native Design.
Both of these are still flexible enough to embrace any kinda of new devices that have yet to come, and I think flat design, is just a simple way of saying appropriate interface for the appropriate device - with our current devices that is flat, but who is to say that can't change in the future.
Point taken. My problem with "native," is it begs the question "native of what?" I think the answer you're offering is "digital," but this design school—the one we're trying to name—isn't necessarily only for the design of computer graphics and user interfaces, is it? Could the same methods and approach not be used in print, for instance?
Great contributions here! I think I'll end up changing the name of the group based on some of the thoughts here. Why not just throw something against the wall and we'll see if something sticks.
Overall, the point of this group is not to define rules, but to increase fluency through conversation. Interaction is a relatively new design discipline, and multi touch even newer. We don't have the language, the metaphors, the clichés, the anecdotes and examples to fall back on when explaining our work. My default rationale is that something just "feels right". We have to get better at saying what makes good interactive work.
Hopefully this conversation will make us all a bit more articulate in explaining our process and results.
I don't think that whatever you will think of will be better than "flat design". It seems it grown up already, so - leave it? Why change what already is popular. It isn't good? So what, it is just a name.
Skeuomorphism isn't better. Say that word to design newbie or non-design person. They won't have a clue what is it about. When saying 'flat design' they might be able to connect the dots and visualise what is it about. Just like when you say 'design that tries to look like real objects'. The communication should be easy, not "right".
This 'Flat Design' can be defined as using color, typography & space to communicate what was coined 'Graphic Design' after the 1920's - before that it was referred to as art. It's a style that started in the 50's and most people refer to it as Swiss Design. It is never referenced when people talk about 'Flat Design'?
'FD' isn't really a style or period but basic fundamentals of graphic design. It took a while to transfer over to digital products & web because of the lack of typography and the constraints on space (small cpu's, monitors, etc). Now that type is strong and we have figured out the canvas - we add in great color schemes & communicate correctly. It's about utility now as it was in the 50's & 60's not 3D'ifying everything.
Design is at it's core about language and communication, how/what we do ought to communicate why we do it. Perhaps, a name that aligns primarily with a design point of view rather than mere technique? I think it would also be helpful to define what we're after, our intent.
@KeenanCummings makes an interesting statement when he says "We don't have the language, the metaphors, the clichés, the anecdotes and examples to fall back on when explaining our work." There may be some insight into this logic that could lead to a better definition for what we do.
I propose Semantic Design, Semiotic Design or Pragmatic Design. Here's why: (please read more here as I've run out of space)
Plane Design has a nice sound to it but I think it falls short of constricting design to well ... planes.
I think that one of the difficulties of naming it something like "Merumorphic" is that its definition comes from being the "opposite of skeuomorphic" rather than an independent set of principles.
There's an interesting tangent between the "flat design" movement and the abstract minimalist art period. Specifically, Clement Greenberg's argument to reduce each medium to a fundamental essence and removing everything else. For example, painting was broken into plane, pigment, and perimeter and avoided narrative, dimensional illusions, etc.
It's a dogmatic point of view but the name should consider the "essence" of digital design.
Should probably point out that I was being a bit ironic with the 'Planomorphic / Merumorphic' thing.
What we're talking about here is a methodology which first matured in the Modernist era, and has to do with practising within the unique possibilities of your medium. It doesn't need a name. If you name it, you kill it. Leave it alone.
I think we should consider the goals of flat design and name it after that - hence we are being true to the thing rather than attempting to abstract it. If we are trying to remove unnecessary metaphor and remain true to the medium (which can be debated but let's say the medium is the series of instructions that make up what we see and hear on devices, then I think what we have is Essential Design because we are attempting to communicate the essence of our message without added unnecessary or confusing adornment. However, I also like Quiet Design because we are trying to exclude visual noise.
A longer response that didn't really fit here:
Do you make a distinction between “flat” and “round” characters?
If you describe someone, it is flat, as a photograph is, and from my standpoint a failure. If you make him up from what you know, there should be all the dimensions."
Giving it a name is precisely what will turn it into a trend and date it as a result. It's just good practice bubbling up (distilling, simplification, etc.) and has existed for years across every design discipline. I vote unnamed or we'll end up in a realm of Web 2.0 and Flat 3.7 until we're eventually at Inverted design.
After all the discussion, I agree with Cillian and others that naming the movement is probably not the best use of our energy as designers. There is a shared concern with user experience that is sufficient.
Providing a name would provide a banner for designers to rally under but that might just lead to stagnantly sitting by that banner instead of adapting to different contexts.
So my vote is unnamed. Arguably, the history books will find their own name for the movement eventually.
Judging by the amount of interest in this I think designers are looking to rally behind a name. Also, historically I think design tends to do that - favor a specific style/ethos for each period or generation.
Take Web 2.0, Bauhaus/Modernism, Art Deco, Renaissance - they're all just labels and in each period of history creatives rallied under the popular choice for both commercial and personal gain.
I would also add to the conversation the term "Level Free Design", as we know that flat design consists of a lack of depth; there is only one dimension where the eye must concentrate on. I do like Fundamental Design, though.
Screw it, let's call it Design.
We are doing that anyway, aren't we? We are creating beautiful products and experiences every day. Maybe finding a name is like trying to find the elusive Unicorn; it might take away its magic as soon as we find it.
Thanks for your feedback! Team Branch