What is Flat Design?

Business Owners | Designers

what is flat design?Perhaps you’ve heard the term “flat design” in the recent months. Despite it’s boring name, this design trend has become super popular, even leading to redesigns of Google and Yahoo logos. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to Flat Design.

When did it catch on?

Surprisingly, Microsoft’s release of Windows 8 sparked the wave of flat design. I was a little shocked that it caught on so quickly, but flabbergasted that it was Microsoft that led this design craze. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing of a design trend started by Microsoft, and especially not Windows.

Of course the move towards Flat Design was influenced by more factors than Windows. Because of information overload and the increase drive to make user interfaces easier to use, simplicity in designs have grown increasingly popular. The focus has been brought back to the content and away from busy design.

But it did seem to take flight from Windows 8, so kudos to you Microsoft!

Not that I bought into Windows 8; I bought a Mac.

What is it?

skeuomorphism and flat design what it is

Flat Design is a relatively simple concept. But first, a look at skeuomorphism, the most popular design idea since, well, ever.

Skeuomorphism, besides being really hard to spell, is the idea that design should take on real world qualities. For example, making your iphone app for reading books look like a bookshelf.

In fact, this idea of making digital items look or act like real world items is everywhere on your computer. The save button? A floppy disk. Shading on buttons? Resembles how light shines on a real button.

But not everyone’s a fan of this idea. Enter Flat Design. Strict Flat Design essentially removes all the shading, drop shadows, and skeuomorphism concepts. But that doesn’t mean skeuomorphism is dead, mainly because most people don’t adhere strict Flat Design.

Instead what we’re seeing is mostly Flat Design. Shading is mostly dropped, or at least very subtle; drop shadows are also subtle; and things like a notepad app don’t look like a real notepad.

On the whole, I like flat design. In fact, this website is currently designed with mostly Flat Design. Even Apple jumped onto the design trend with their new IOS7. Check out what Jony Ive, the man behind Apple’s removal of skeuomorphism, says about why Apple switched.


Pictures can help explain this far better, so here’s a few examples of Flat Design. Note the lack of shading and the emphasis on bright colors and images or icons.

Want some more examples? Check out Flat UI Design’s website.