Navigating the New Flat Design Landscape

In 2011, we snagged a developer preview of Windows 8. A year and a half later, upon wide release, navigating Windows 8’s new Metro interface polarized users. However, the design itself was a revelation. Sell-Through Solutions adopted the new, flatter look for our designs immediately, actually beating the official Windows 8 release by more than a year. We felt that the cleaner palette was ideal for PowerPoint presentations and e-learning courses.

Soon after the Windows 8 debut, the now-ubiquitous design style was called the “flat” look. Characterized by flat colors (no depth or gradients), a complete absence of ornamentation, and generous use of white space, Flat Design is more legible and relaxing to the eye than anything that came before.

Before Flat Design, Windows Vista and its predecessors flashed lots of “chrome” (dimensional buttons and other navigation), gradients, and translucency. At the same time, Apple was dominated by the Steve Jobs-favored skeuomorphic design (Notes app mimicking a legal pad; Newsstand app looking like an actual book/magazine case).

Today, in a remarkable display of solidarity, Microsoft, Apple, and Google (with their recent Material Design makeover) are all on board with Flat Design.

Is it too much of a good thing?

As early adopters of Flat Design, we love it. However, there’s always room for authenticity. There’s no rule that says that everything needs to look like infographics. Sometimes a bookcase needs to look like a bookcase. Sometimes a little dimension is a good thing. (In fact, subtle navigation button dimensionality is a key component of Google’s otherwise flat Material Design.)

Bottom line: Micro-decisions such as navigation button design and which elements, if any, should be skeuomorphic, is why savvy businesspeople leave design to designers. You can count on Sell-Through Solutions to make the design decisions that deliver your training message best — flat or otherwise.

And if something better comes along, we’ll be on top of that, too.