Trends: Flat Design vs. skeuomorphism vs. handmade?

Posted by | April 10, 2014 | Design Tips | No Comments

Keeping up to date with trends is such an important part of being a successful freelance designer. So, my current battle is the trend of flat design. Which don’t get me wrong I absolutely love clean lines and the crisp colour of flat design. But are we really done with glamification also known as skeuomorphism, or is it just in hiding? I really do agree that there is an equal medium of the two, which I predict will be the next big thing — trying to keep a flat design approach but make it interesting with slight skeuomorphic elements (something I’ve been testing out). And let’s not forget the trend (although not sure if it is a trend per-say because it’s been around for a while) in handmade graphics. So here is a little brief on these three great approaches to design execution and see if we can really predict the next great trend.

Lets start off with a little definition of the three items:


Flat Design: A minimalistic approach to design with no limitation on colour but having simple lines and details that clarify the object/page — no gradients are used but crisp lines define shadows that maybe applied. Flat design brings out the clarity in design with use of only essential elements to define shapes and type.


Skeuomorphism: To put it simply skeuomorphism is ornamental design. Generally accomplished with shadows, gradients, overlapping elements etc. The main objective in skeuomorphism is to make something look as realistic as possible. You will see this effect created mostly in applications, digital key pads and various user interfaces.


Handmade: This one is pretty self explanatory. The use of pen and paper, manual creation like letter press, drawing letters and layouts, photography of elements arranged by hand – eg. something Sagmeister (one of my favourite designers) has done for many years. It can be defined as a craft and possibly art, but used in the form of design — intern to communicate, not just to appease the eye.

With all three in mind, which is most functional? Since functionality is the key to most designers objectives, where do we stand and where does the future of design stand when there is three huge influential styles. Since not everyone will go for just one. Having heard plenty of debates on which one is better. But I guess like any ‘trend’ history shows we take the best elements from what we learned then move on, as there will always be new trends on the horizon. Realistically, there is a creative evolution to our history and to our world of design, so what is next? Is flat design the modern era of Bauhaus? In its current context of the modern day — technology driven world we live in, can we predict the next trend? What followed the Bauhaus period – is that our answer?

The favourite of mine out of the three is the rising interest in handmade design, which has been popularized by the rise of technology and it’s humanity’s way of still grasping on to the genuine, the organic and purity of mass production. For example printing technologies like letterpress have been regaining popularity not only because it has a great feel and texture to every piece produced but to know that when you have a run of 50 business cards each individual card is printed manually. Side note: A really great resource for letter press work is on The Beauty of Letterpress website. Same goes for silkscreen methods or even hand bound books. They are not just set up on a press where 3000 copies can be made in an hour. A great handmade project that stands out for me is the 2012 custom handmade covers of wallpaper magazine — see it here. Lets not forget the obvious trend of hands on design in the food and drink niche. And although this method may not be ideal for todays go-go world, the outcomes are generally outstanding and has an impression on people unlike any other method.

Flat design, oh flat design. I wish I saw the world in flat design, but then that would get pretty boring I can assume. But in the context of using flat design in an information driven world especially on the internet and on our phones, you only wish everything was in flat design because we are so bombarded with information. A sleek legible simple article is not much to ask, is it? So on this case flat design I think wins in my eyes for anything technology related.

And Skeuomorphism? Well, it had its time, in the early 80’s and has developed immensely over the years. But as everything in time — it has come and possibly gone. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of illustrators do magic when creating a realistic piece drawn in illustrator and photoshop, but we should ask ourselves where is it’s place in the modern world of information that we live in and depending on the project where is it most applicable?

So how do we use these to their greatest potential? That is up to every designers disgression in making our world a beautiful, clear and concise as possible.

What do you think?  What favourite style do you like and why? I would love for you to share, so please write a comment below.  — Like what you read? Sign up for the Avid Creative Newsletter here.

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