Fashion, design, pancakes. Some things are naturally circular. Have you noticed how those tables with the funny little wonky legs are suddenly en vogue again? It wasn’t so many years ago that we were taking them out to the big recycling centre in the sky for the crime of being absolutely awful.
Beards are another prime example. The last time the full facial flapjack was seen to be loved was the seventies, but here it is again, taken back from lumberjacks and wizards to be sported by anyone who can so resplendently craft one.
In design trends, so as the rest.
Back when MySpace was cool and thongs were creeping up the popularity charts, Apple launched OS X and introduced a lot of people to Skeuomorphic design. With its icons that looked like the objects they represented in real life, you knew instantly which button to press. Want to play some music? There’s a CD. Need to send an email? Here’s a stamp, that’ll help. Look up your friend’s address in this startlingly realistic address book.
Apple OS X dock
“Skeuomorphs need not be visual. The shutter-click sound emitted by most camera phones when taking a picture is an auditory skeuomorph: it does not come from a mechanical shutter, which camera phones lack, but from a sound file in the phone’s operating system. Another example is the swiping hand gesture for turning the “pages” or screens of a tablet.” Source: Wikipedia
The skeuomorphic design camp held court for quite some time, showcasing the trend heft that big brands and major operating systems enjoy. Everything was shiny and detail was high, but it couldn’t last; how could you cram in more realism in a given number of pixels? Something had to give. A new trend was coming, you could feel it in your thick-rimmed designer spectacles.
And then boom! Windows 8 happened, iOS 7 happened and everyone else jumped on the latest bandwagon. Mind your legs, it’s all in the timing.
Microsoft Windows 8
Flat design has landed and the world has changed again. It’s flatter, for a start. All that carefully crafted real-world detail has became a shadow of a single tone concept, literally in some cases, as soft edged drop-shadows morphed into those lovely shadows you get of a sunny evening in June that seem to go on forever. Ahh.
Gradients were banished from buttons to backgrounds, text is an excuse for typography (or is it the other way round?) and more than 3 shades of a single colour marks you out as the next trendsetter. Flat design has become a byword for minimalism and efficiency, removing unnecessary faff from our world, encouraging us to live for every undiluted moment.
But hold on, you say, doesn’t this all sound very familiar? What about the Swiss Style, or International Typographic Style? It’s not all Toblerones, ski holidays and staying neutral in all major conflicts. No, back in the 1940s and 50s they were loving flat colours, minimalist strokes and simple sans-serif typefaces. They tended towards the print medium, what with connection speeds measured in pigeons rather than megabits, but they coined it, whippersnappers.
I love this topic. I could wax lyrical about it for days and bore you all to tears. But common sense prevailed (okay, the rest of the team begged me to stop) and I’ll leave it there. But maybe you have your own favourite style of design that you’d like to berate me in no uncertain terms for skimming over or leaving out entirely? By all means, baby. Hit me!