This category features articles on general design principles, Web design, typography, user interface design and related topics. It also presents design showcases and practical pieces on the business side of design. Curated by Alma Hoffmann.
In the last several years, we’ve seen a rapid shift in software and app interface design, from 3-D and skeuomorphic to flat and minimal. Although this trend has become nearly ubiquitous, let’s take a moment to consider how we got here and what influence it’s having on interface design as a whole.
Additionally, I’ll share some tips and considerations on designing flat interfaces. So, how did the collective consciousness swing from a love of all things textured, beveled and drop-shadowed to a desire for flat colors and simple typography?
I have spent nearly a decade experimenting with a single goal in mind: to create scalable, predictably insightful, inspirational environments. I have led creative teams in these environments, and I’m currently doing it as the Director of Web Interface and Development at Astonish (a digital marketing company in Rhode Island, US).
It hasn’t been easy, because forcing inspiration is impossible. You have to use finesse and let it come to you. What follows is what I’ve found to help my team and me harness inspiration effectively.
In digital culture, we are beginning to think of our output as products and of our clients as users. “Products” might be websites, apps or communities, and they might be created by startups, agencies or a couple of people at a hackathon.
This shift mainly means that we have gotten serious about asking how to better serve users, which reflects a significant change in the designer’s skill set. Designers will use the same tools they have always used, but they are now responsible for more than just the interface.
Few applications feel as complete as Adobe’s InDesign. First released in 1999 as a direct attack against the then-industry standard, Quark, the page-layout application has been made faster and more feature-rich with each iteration. But even the best applications lack some features.
Luckily, Adobe realized this some years ago and opened the doors to allow designers to expand this beloved set of tools through plugins. Many designers don’t realize how powerful InDesign can be, especially when expanded through plugins and scripts.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Whether you realize it or not, your typography helps to create an experience for users before they’ve even read a word or clicked a button. Typography has the potential to go beyond merely telling a story — it shows the user who is behind the website and what you’re about. The treatment of type creates an atmosphere and elicits a response much the same way as tone of voice does.
You need to ask yourself, what do you want to say and how do you want to say it? Consider the user: What do you want them to feel and experience when the page loads? Typography establishes a mode of communication and, in turn, the personality of the website. The choice of typeface will determine how people respond to your website.
“Can you put together a digital strategy for us to review?” Requests like this strike fear into those of us who work on the Web. What do we know about putting together strategy documents?
Yes, we understand the Web, but we don’t know how to write a document that is essentially a business strategy. What even goes into a digital strategy! Unfortunately, this is something management seems to increasingly request from Web designers.
The recently popularized “flat” interface style is not merely a trend. It is the manifestation of a desire for greater authenticity in design, a desire to curb visual excess and eliminate the fake and the superfluous.
In creating new opportunities, technological progress sometimes leads to areas of excess. In the 19th century, mechanized mass production allowed for ornaments to be stamped out quickly and cheaply, leading to goods overdecorated with ornament.
In my career as a freelance illustrator, map-making has become a favorite specialty of mine. With each map assignment, I virtually travel across the globe, visiting places I’ve never been. Most recent was a “trip” to New Zealand for a sampling of local Wellington beer for Draft Magazine.
My maps are designed to appear next to magazine stories about trips to faraway places, or about the best restaurants in a nearby neighborhood. I create them in Adobe Illustrator, and I relish the research process as much as working on the drawings themselves.