On Authentic Design

The recent trend for a “flat” aesthetic in web/user interface design is causing quite a stir.

In a recent article published by Smashing Magazine, Dmitry Fadeyev wrote that:

The recently popularized “flat” interface style is not merely a trend. It is the manifestation of a desire for greater authenticity in design, a desire to curb visual excess and eliminate the fake and the superfluous.

The premise of the article is that, similar to the Modern design movement of the 20th century, the move away from “needless ornamentation” seen in the current “flat” approach to digital design is underpinned by a focus on material authenticity, rather than decoration.

I can’t help but think that this whole debate misses the inherent nature of a digital interface, in that its natural “material state” does not exist in a visual form. Neither is simplicity the nature of the digital medium. It’s all binary code manipulated by complex layers of programming and interaction between hardware, software, operating system, not to mention the web.

Our goal is not authenticity, our goal is to to reduce complexity to clarity. Using whatever visual form is appropriate.

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