Everything You Need to Know About Flat Design

Paul Schetelich

Lead Designer

Flat design has been a hot topic because of its ability to create simple, beautiful interfaces. It’s not the best choice for every project though. You must know what visuals and messages you want to achieve. To help you choose when and when not to use the design, we’ve put together this helpful blog post that contains everything you need to know about flat design!

What is Flat Design, Exactly?

Flat design can be described as a minimal design that features a distinct, two-dimensional style. No embellishment is needed - drop shadows, bevels, embossing or gradients. Each element on the page is crisp and simple. Rather than adding a bunch of extras to make the design pop, flat design relies on a hierarchy and placement of the elements. This makes the content easy to understand and interact with, especially on mobile devices.

Where Did Flat Design Come From?

Allan Grinshtein, from LayerVault, coined the term “flat design” in his post The Flat Design Era. At the time, the community valued the principles of flat design because they were bombarded by complex and embellished designs. Microsoft was one of the first big players that brought flat design to the forefront when they launched the Zune music player in ‘06. Today, Microsoft still uses flat design in some work, including Xbox 360, Windows 8 and the Windows Phone 7.

What is Included in a Flat Design?

Most flat design schemes contain five distinct characteristics:

  • No added effects

  • Simple design and UI elements

  • Focus on typography

  • Focus on color

  • Overall minimalist approach

How is a Flat Design Created?

Below are a few tips for developing a flat design with ease.

  • Buttons. Flat buttons should be placed on grid organization and color contrast. Keep them simple, and you may use bevels and shadows as long as you keep a flat appearance. You cannot use gradients, borders or drop shadows to make the button stand out.

  • Forms. Getting forms to fit within a flat design can be complicated. To help, you may want to use a plugin that supports themes in the way you want. You can also style the form elements with CSS on your own. Avoid using inset shadows on dropdowns, text areas and inputs.

  • Typography. With a minimalist design, you have more freedom with typography. Decide how you want the typography to make your users feel. This will help you choose a font that has the personality and tone you’re looking for.

  • Colors. Flat designs tend to have bolder, brighter colors. Specify a color for important buttons such as “Submit” or “Send.” Be consistent with these actions. Users will rely on color to help them recognize what to do.

  • Shapes. The most common shapes in flat design are squares with or without rounded corners. You can experiment with other shapes, but it could make the design look more elaborate. Remember to be consistent and organize content accordingly.

Flat design is a great choice for some projects, but it should be used moderately. In general, flat design is ideal for portfolios, web tech startup sites and other projects that require a light and minimalistic interface. For other projects, it’s best to stick to more complex designs, otherwise you run the risk of limiting your creative potential.

 
About the Author: Paul Schetelich

Since the days of sidewalk chalk and finger paints, Paul has been creatively crafting the art of design. With a B.A. in Graphic Design from Monmouth University and a Masters from the Califano School of Art - Paul quickly moved up the ranks at SEMGeeks from Junior Designer to the Lead Designer. With 4+ years of experience in web design Paul is ready to conquer the digital atmosphere.

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