Can we just stop? No visual style is right.

Why are we talking about this?

Flat-Design,  Honest design, Skeuomorphism, Realism, Textured… Can we just stop?

Over the past few months I have been seeing countless discussions, arguments and attacks either for or against skeuomorphism or flat design. Many designers start by trying to define what skeumorphism really means. I am not going to do that because I don’t understand why we are talking about this. I believe there are many intelligent and useful discussions and arguments to be had about interface design. This one just seems pedantic.

Many colleagues and peers of mine seem to be acting like there is some blanket approach to design and that textured or realistic design ( or call it skeuomorphim) is bad . Apparently it is holding the industry back? From what? Digital looking applications? Crazy new innovative designs? ”Flat design” seems to be the answer. I think all designers can agree that visuals count for something. Generally it counts for a lot. Which is why many companies are looking to designers as leaders for their products.

Visual style is important

We have gotten into this mantra that design is problem-solving and nothing else. It certainly is problem-solving. But, we are not just problem-solvers. We are visual problem-solvers. Visual style is just as much a part of design as the layout, flow, buttons, interactions etc.
I have worked on projects that have flat looking icons, ones that have super detailed ones, ones that have single color icons and ones that are isometric with one color. The list goes on but the point is  every project calls for its own identity and therefore, its own visual language and style. Textures and skeumorphism might be the solution for your project. In my career, I have seen that video games and restaurants websites tend to thrive on interface solutions that have depth, personality and yes, texture. At the same, time I have seen apps with only three colors and examples with robust textures and realistically rendered buttons and they all had top notch usability and user satisfaction.

There are some really great things in the style of  the new Windows applications, along with LayerVault, Disqus, and Rdio. I also really like my iPad applications, video games and juicy texture-rich interfaces. As I have said in past writings, your product or company personality is communicated through your visuals, your texture( or lack thereof), the level of rendering you do on icons, brand language and tons of other elements. Every project throws you different requirements and problems to solve.

Maybe we should be talking about what problems are best solved by different visual approaches instead of trend-hating. Can’t we all just agree that design is a versatile profession. Debating the minutia of one visual technique over the other in broad context of design and doing it ad nauseam seems like its just spinning our wheels.




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