The Unbearable Being of Flatness

Eli Schiff on the consequences of “flatness”:

Flat design emerged as a convenient set of training wheels for shortsighted front-end developers and the increasingly disposable visual designers who blindly embraced the aesthetic. However, whether or not flat design would go on to increase interfaces' enjoyment or usability for users was not a matter of importance for these designers or developers.

As I explained in Critical Sharks Part Four,

The crucial point here is not only that Apple does not support independent development. When app development is unsustainable, design itself must accordingly suffer too.

This is why iOS 7 and flat design have been such a boon to developers. It means that on their cash-strapped budgets, they no longer have to pay to get a mediocre design. Now they can make it themselves. These developers, and the blind designers who followed their lead, loudly cheered on as truly custom design experiences were thrown out the window by OS makers.

Continue reading “Fall of the Designer Part I: Fashionable Nonsense” at

I would agree that flatness does make it easier for average joe developer to baseline their app's UI and aesthetics at “mediocre”, but for me that's vastly preferable to the previous “awful” baseline we had with iO6. Via very selective choices, Schiff offers a number of examples where flatness gives everything a generic, consistent look. Well, yes, because it's nice to have a cohesive experience when you unlock and use your device, but also, there are any number of brands and apps with exquisite icons and unique and beautiful UI's, done by either highly skilled designers, or by talented devs, who may not have been particurly skilled at applying skeuomorphic textures in Photoshop, but were, as it turned out, quite adept at visual design and layout.

I look at my home screen today and it's nothing like the “homogenous” example Schiff offers as an example in his post, instead mine is bursting with colorful, clean, and often downright bad-ass icons (I'm looking at you bottom row: Dark Sky, Enlight, and Nuzzel). No doubt many developers fall prey to the “easiness” of flatness, and I'd agree that Overcast's unspectacular UI and boring icon (my words not his) do make Schiff's point, but it seems to me that Schiff's “everything looks the same” premise is immediately debunked by the UI's of other apps just inside Overcast's genre, like the more sexy Castro, and the more handsome Pocket Casts. Both apps are good looking, visually distinct, and yes, undoubtedly beneficiaries of flatness.