Whatever happened to …

… skeuomorphic design.

You know – drop shadows, gradients, embossing, 3D effects, and so on.

There was a time when multimedia and websites seemed undressed unless you had this fancy stuff included, especially for navigation.

A visit to the Windows93 website reminded me that today’s interface wasn’t always the norm.

I can remember an activity for every Photoshop, Hyperstudio, Web Design workshop I gave and the efforts to make an image look like it had a drop shadow.  You’d draw a button, graphic, menu and then draw another one on top of it and fill it with black and dark grey.  Then, with the hands of a surgeon you select the image and then move it ever so slightly with your mouse.  I actually preferred to use the arrow keys on the keyboard.  My standard was two taps to the right and then two taps down.  You’d then rearrange the order so that the original image was on top and you had your drop shadow.  Select both images, lock them together and you have your 3D.

From an academic point of view, there’s so much computer skill involved that really made it worthwhile for students to learn.

Of course, if you’re using Hyperstudio, you have your choice of buttons and an easy way to create them.  After all, it was designed to make multimedia creation easy for kids.

These days, things are so flat.  It’s so much easier to design.  It’s something that you notice right away and appears in your operating system and browser.  It’s specially important in your browser as it’s probably the most frequently updated piece of software on your computer.  All designers want to appear to be on the cutting edge.

Speaking of which, navigation in Edge looks like this.

it’s not just Edge.

Check out the navigation in Opera under Windows

As opposed to Opera under MacOS

It’s the same functionality but completely different in design.

Icon sets have become flat as well.  Recently, I came across a Super Flat Remix icon set for Ubuntu.  Check out these icons if you’re a Macintosh user.  And, of course, if you’re a Windows 10 user, you’ve got many of them already as part of the operating system.  However, a quick internet search provides even more if you are so inclined.

Design isn’t just limited to flatness.  You’ve got to get the colour combinations correct too.

Just realize that the world hasn’t always been this graphical.  Those of us who used terminals a long time ago were limited to the characters that you could tap on the keyboard.  That didn’t stop people from heading into graphics with combinations of characters.  Check out this if you long for the days where creating ASCII are was a technique of its own.

Do you have any “flat” thoughts?

  • Have you ever designed 3D effects?  
  • Do you have a preference between flat and the alternatives?
  • Does “flat” seem to have a better visual appeal for you?
  • If “flat” just a current fad and will we see our world turn to something else?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!


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