As I observe today’s design trends: long shadows, long-pages, flat & muted colors, I find myself wondering what the next trend may be. It’s really interesting to think of the shifts in design as if they were movements in art history like the Renaissance movement, the Baroque movement, Impressionism, Cubism, Pop Art. Each movement had its common aesthetic qualities much like we have today, only now… movements seem to come and go like the wind.
So what’s next for the future of web design? Where will the landscape shift after this current trend? I shrug… Skeuomorphism seemed to spark from a fascination with acquiring the ability to do more with the web, to show more, to show off. Why? I think it’s simply because hardware, software, and more specifically, browsers became more advanced which seems to suggest that the skeuomorphic design movement was governed by technology. I think this movement was a response to years of animated gifs, HTML tables, and a myriad design constraints. Before our software improved, a web designer quite literally didn’t have the technical ability to create artistic expression through a browser, that is, they were constrained by the browser and I think skeuomorphism was the response to those technological constraints. In skeuomorphism we textured, lit, gradiated, rounded, shadowed, and sIFRed. And we did it a lot. However, this movement appears to be dying and making room for what the web design community is calling flat design.
Where skeuomorphism was a response to having less constraints, flat design is a response to the realization that even though we now have the those barriers removed, we don’t really need show off anymore. A return to basics seems to be where web design is going – “Design for what it is”, some say, but I think the bigger catalyst for this new movement is once again governed by technology. The web has gone mobile. It’s gotten visually smaller, despite its increasing content. The mobile web has no room for bloated web pages, for heavy textures and graphics. It has to be fast, instantaneous even. This reality is forcing designers to constrain themselves and conform to this new movement: flat design. Gone are the textures. Gone are the garish shadows and lighting. Gone are the massive gradients. Gone are the panels of wood and metal. Gone are all the visual elements that create increased page load.
So what can we expect the next design movement to be? Where will the next design trend land? Part of the answer is probably left to speculation. But another part is going to be heavily influenced by technology as it was in previous trends.
Let’s take a look at what’s happening now: Apple recently introduced a translucent interface in iOS7. Various sections of the operating system have layers where a user can see underlying spaces. Google recently introduced Google Glass: clear, partially-framed glasses, with a fully functional interface. Users will use a transparent interface to interact with their device. Another company, Leap Motion, already has their gesture-driven interaction product. Leap captures hand gestures and implements them on a screen. The screen is still a typical screen but seeing this product makes me think of Minority Report where the actors interacted with translucent screens through gestures. It would seem that those days are not only coming, they’re already here.
Transparency, translucency, opacity, clear, glass. As designers, these are the trends I see on our doorstep. Space is limited but content is still abundant. Transluceny answers this design challenge, at least for now. So, with these facts, I’m predicting the next design movement will be what I’m calling: transparent design.