Monday, July 17, 2017

Question of the week: Why are designers returning to flat design for logos?

Let’s step into the way-back machine for a moment.

ALL the way to the turn of the century. A big 17 years ago. 

During that time, websites were getting savvy, pulling out all the stops. Flash was being added for interactivity, at least for those who had high enough speed to access a Flash site. And then there was Photoshop. Designers were all worked up over beveled edges and drop shadows - using them to make websites, and indeed logos, look more sophisticated.

Yep. The whole point of design in those halcyon days of the internet was to make a statement - to let the world know “I’m here! On the internet! Check me out!”

The more dominant feeling now is, “I’m chill. It’s all good.” 

Because, really, who isn’t on the internet? So there’s no longer the need to dazzle and impress. 

But that’s only part of it. Design trends aside, there’s one major reason for the shift to flat design. And it has to do with your mobile device.

Flat design is mobile friendly.

What makes it so?

Flat design is clean and uncluttered. It puts an emphasis on minimalism and simplicity. And when your eyes are tired, isn’t this what you want to see? Something that’s breezy, open and basic that you can easily absorb rather than a multi-layered dog and pony show with a complicated color scheme? 

Of course, we all have personal preferences. You may have an affection for dog and pony shows. But the overriding opinion is that flat design is more effective than 3-D design because the more basic the shape and color scheme, the easier you can take in the meaning of what you see. Turns out the human brain has challenges.

At this point you might be asking yourself, but isn’t a logo supposed to stand out and be memorable? Wouldn’t 3-D be more effective for, at the very least, my logo?

It’s true that your logo should be recognizable and able to stand alone.  

But if a designer tosses in some show-stopping elements like shades and borders, then the logo is locked into those chosen colors and dimensions. And that was all fine and good when backgrounds were overwhelmingly neutral. 

These days, those backgrounds are going to vary a lot more. Logos need to work on web pages, print ads, animations, displays, cards, shirts and onto hundreds of backgrounds.

So when a background changes, those elements will also require specific changes. And that’s no good, because logos are about identity. They require continuity and should feel the same no matter the circumstance. And the minimalism and simplicity built into flat design make it especially effective. It stays true to the primary visual concept.

Plus, when you get right down to it, the real estate for images on mobile devices is a much hotter commodity than on a desk top. So logos need to be simple.

A logo should be easily recognized in silhouette. And at any scale.

Flat design enables that. What’s more, web developers like flat design too. It’s easier to develop and causes far fewer hassles. Which follows right in line with the whole philosophy. 

So designers are keeping it simple. Because that’s what works.