Visual Style

In web and UI design, I find it alarmingly common to hear my peers speak in absolutes, especially when it comes to visual style. Shifts in the tastes of designers often feel reactive, rigid and dismissive.

I’ve watched this cycle of backlash a few times since I started in the field. Glossy ‘web 2.0’ styles and wicked worn fell out of fashion as iOS-style design became popular, and now flat design is being put forward as a more inherently honest direction for the digital milieu, compared to designs that rely on real-world metaphor. The controversy around skeumorphic design has been a hot topic lately, culminating (or not) in a major design leadership shake-up at Apple.

However, I’m wary of shutting the door on any particular visual style. A designer should strive to be conversant, if not skilled, in many different styles. While some lend themselves to timelessness better than others, there’s always the chance that a style that’s out of vogue may be the most appropriate for the requirements of the project at hand.

If you wish to work in a specific style, align yourself with projects for which it is the absolute ideal. The only label you need to bother with is the one that describes this process of understanding what you’re building, whom it’s for, and what the best possible outcome is. As for skeumorphism, I believe Robert Anderson, designer at Square, sums its place and value nicely with this tweet: