Flat vs. Rich (skeuomorphic) Design

As promised in an earlier post I am going to give my thoughts on the merits of both Flat and Rich design styles.

But before any of that, I’m going to share a few articles that set the context for this current debate in the world of design:

A great starting point for definitions: http://sachagreif.com/flat-pixels/

An interesting comparison article: http://www.lonodigital.com/news/skeuomorphism-vs-flat-design–which-style-is-better.php

A (rational) hatred of skeuomorphism: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670760/will-apples-tacky-software-design-philosophy-cause-a-revolt

In the context of Usability Design: http://www.effectiveui.com/blog/2013/03/29/flat-versus-rich-usability-design/

Is Apple about to drop skeuomorphism design for iOS7?: http://www.ibtimes.com/apple-ios-7-rumors-skeuomorphism-features-gone-replaced-new-flat-design-video-1227479#

More on the above from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22840833

Actually the list could go on and on but here is a good start for your journey to understanding what the differences between Flat / Rich (skeuomorphism) design are and how the industry is reacting to a shift in trend.

Examples (Flat)

Just so it’s clear what I’m discussing here are a few examples of the Flat style of design in different contexts:

A simple website that embraces flat design style in all aspects – navigation, illustrations, backgrounds, text colours, etc.
The subjective Windows Metro (or whatever it’s called now after the threat of legal proceedings) is [going to be] the classic argument for (and against) the flat style of design.
Flat style of design applied to a mobile app.

Examples (Skeuomorphic)

And here are a few skeuomorphic oriented interfaces:

Digital synthesizers have long featured skeuomorphism in their interface designs chiefly because the software is directly mimicking the hardware alternatives and so it makes sense not confuse users of either.
Comparing the two styles of design is clearly a hot topic presently.
Ahhh yes… Apple. Dedicated purveyors of interfaces that look like their real-world counterparts and rather unfairly slated for doing so.

I stated in the introduction to this post that I would give my own thoughts but actually there’s plenty of opinion out there already without me contributing my subjective views.

Put simply; both styles of design are just tools to visually portray information and functionality. Consider context and usability impact then make an informed decision. Neither is better than the other, and if I was to offer one thought to consider; it’s that actually, when you get down to the very fundamentals of a design decision, pretty much everything, bar a few abstract interfaces, is a form of skeuomorphism design. Why else do we make a button look like a button?

Anyway, to make up your own mind (if you feel the need to find a winner in this argument), then check out the ‘for and against’ paragraphs of the digital section of this Wikipedia document.

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