We’ve been reading a lot about “flat design” lately, a seemingly new approach to Web design that is making the Web pundits predict that “This is the future of Web design – the next big thing!” Is flat design really as new and revolutionary as the pundits claim? Or is it just a return to good design fundamentals?
A Visit with Dieter Rams, Circa 1970
Recently, I stumbled across an old article about German industrial designer Dieter Rams that brought the current buzz about “flat design” into perspective. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “There was no Internet in the 1970s. How is this dusty old article relevant to Web design today?” Let’s take a look.
Back in the ’70s, Rams was concerned with the visual state of the world around him which he called “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colors, and noises.” Aware that he was a contributor to that world, he asked himself, “Is my design good design?”
As good design cannot be measured in a finite way, Rams set about expressing the ten most important principles for what he considered good design:
- Good design is innovative
- Good design makes a product useful
- Good design is aesthetic
- Good design makes a product understandable
- Good design is unobtrusive
- Good design is honest
- Good design is long-lasting
- Good design is thorough down to the last detail
- Good design is environmentally-friendly
- Good design is as little design as possible
As a healthcare marketer today, I reflect on Dieter Rams’ observations of 40 years ago. Our world – more than ever – is “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colors and noises.” Our beloved Internet is a cesspool of noise – bedazzled with spinning whirlygigs, bric-a-brac, and meaningless swooshes.
Mobile Computing Forces Simplicity
The rise of mobile computing – and with it, smaller displays and lower bandwidth – has forced graphic designers to revisit the same question that Dieter Rams asked himself, “Is my design good design?”
Despite the contemporary buzz about “flat design” and whether or not it’s here to stay, my observation is this: “flat design” is, in most ways, a return to good design. As Mr. Rams says, “Is the design innovative? Is the design aesthetically pleasing? Is the design ‘as little design as possible?’ Is the design unobtrusive?”
Good design is always the next big trend.