A quick glance between the iPhone’s new iOS 7 and its predecessor will show you two troubling trends in graphic design:
- Flat and simple is hot.
- Dimension and dynamic is not.
Flat Design and iOS 7: A Tale of Misuse
The flat and bright icons of iOS 7 are a harbinger of a new trend in graphic design called “Flat Design.” Flat Design focuses on simplicity and high contrast colors in two dimensions. The problem with iOS 7 isn’t that it uses flat design; it’s that it uses it poorly. One example of great flat icons appears in the iOS 6 “Game Center” icon:
The iOS 6 version is elegant and it gives you a real sense of the variety of games you can play inside the app: board (intelligent and quiet), sports (loud and fun), fantasy (space and beyond) and classic (fun and easy to learn). But in iOS 7, you get multi-colored bubbles. The icon is obscure and says absolutely nothing about what you may expect to find in the “Game Center.” Its only purpose is to look young and trendy.
Photo courtesy of vaccinesandevolution.blogspot.com
So What’s the Problem?
I think the underlying problem with iOS 7 is that it misunderstands why Flat Design is trending in 2013, and it’s something I mentioned about the “Game Center” icon. Flat Design is trendy because it’s well done, and it’s well done because it’s elegant. Trendy doesn’t mean childish as Apple seems to think, and elegance combines what’s hot with what’s professional.
Creative Market: Icons for the Win
This icon set from Creative Market is a great example of Flat Design done well. These icons are fun; they are drawn in the style of children’s illustrations that keeps them trendy, but they pack an informational punch that keeps them professional.
While smart gadgets and internet culture are clearly injecting fun and “what’s hot” into the professional market, I have to question if it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia for the class of business suits and briefcases, but I think the trends need to stay separate from the business world. In the middle of this article, I inserted a meme — the trademark humor of popular internet culture. Does the trendy joke make me seem less or more professional? Is it okay to mix business with pleasure? Is trending graphic design getting too hip for the working world? What do you think?