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Flat Design: A Thing of the Past or the Future?

August 1, 2014

Blog | Culture | Flat Design: A Thing of the Past or the Future?
Flat Design: A Thing of the Past or the Future?

They say the future can be predicted by learning the past.  What once was will be again. This is often said about wars and political trends, but it applies to art and design, as well. 

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Art Nouveau took center stage. Its clean flowing lines and blocked-out colors replaced the various impressionist movements of the century before. This simplification and departure from any sense of realism then became a gateway to the Art Deco Movement. Color was then widely removed and flowing lines transformed into strict geometric forms. This is a very important moment to mark, because it gave birth to many beautiful buildings, paintings, and sculptures. Though its effects can be seen across our cultural and architectural landscape, it was a movement that was later greatly abandoned. This perfectly illustrates how, as a people, we embrace something with great passion, move on, and then bring it back.

If you compare the 40 or so years mentioned above, to the past 40 years, we see the same trajectory.  The 60’s are known for psychedelic colorful shapes and flowing lines, much like Art Nouveau sixty years prior. It was organic in every form and a complete departure from the Swiss art movement of the 50’s.  Though the psychedelic art movement flourished, it was followed by a more abstract and – for lack of better words – complicated art period.  Graffiti and Punk disrupted everything. Then, we simplified and went back to using the Swiss techniques from the 50’s. We gravitated to what is now known as flat design, but its roots are in the 50’s. While I believe that the past will still dictate the future,  designers have to make new explorations past flat design and create something new. Much like Art Deco, flat design has overtaken every facet of our lives and I believe that will soon end.

We have, for the most part, reveled in “vintage” and our ability to minimize detail. But rather than revisiting psychedelic art, we could be creating something that offers so much more. The question is: will you be the one latching onto the past or the one helping shape the future?


Théophile Steinlen – Le Chat Noir

Chrysler Building – Carol Highsmith

Psychedelic Landscape – Eve Trombley

Young Punk  – Tim Schapker

Will Truran, UX Designer, GeekHive

Will Truran

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