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The Origins of Flat Digital Design

Flat design has exploded in recent years, thanks to a range of prestigious early adopters that paved the way for the rest of the online stratosphere. In 2014 and beyond, there have been many big name brands that have become swept up in flat digital design. So where did this design trend come from? Is it here to stay? What are the benefits and downsides of flat digital design, and can we use a crystal ball to see where it will all be heading? Without further ado, let’s take a trip down the digital garden path.

What is Flat Design?

Flat design to the uninitiated may conjure up ideas of a bland and lifeless i.e. ‘flat’ seeming design aesthetic. However this isn’t the meaning of the term. Instead it is a style of design that is exciting, fresh and very right now. It’s a style of design where elements use their stylistic characters  that give them 3-D appearance. In other words, drop shadows, gradients, textures and another elements that give the design a three-dimensional feel are removed, rendering the design flat.

This can be a wonderful way to express imagery, content and the underlying message without the distraction of three-dimensional design elements. In other words, flat design can cut out the hubris or background noise in digital design, and make it appear more modern. So what’s this opposing dated version of digital design that we’re talking about? Well it’s only fair when discussing flat design that we look at its counterpart.

Rich design is the use of drop shadows, reflections, gradients in digital design, in order to give the appearance of depth and to make the design more tactile. Rich design has the benefit of providing the user with cues about navigability. It demonstrates to the user where elements like buttons or any other clickable links are located.

Although related in some ways to Skeumorphism, Rich Design is a different design creed in itself. While rich design is about making things pop out of the screen or appear more three-dimensional, Skeumorphism is the act of making digital elements appear familiar or like their physical counterparts – a subtle but important difference to remember.

Windows 8
Image Source Windows 8

Flat Design: A History

Flat design hails from an illustrious design and aesthetic pedigree that reaches back to the 1920’s Germany, the Bauhaus, Minimalist and Swiss Design movements. All of these styles overlap and form a unique stylistic blending in the current time.

The Bauhaus School

Anybody who loves design will be familiar with this famous school in Germany that operated between 1919 and 1933. It was responsible for thoroughly modern and streamlined typography and architecture. The influence of Bauhaus has been felt throughout the ensuing decades in everything from furniture design to modern web design.

The Bauhaus School, Dessau 2005
The Bauhaus School, Dessau 2005 Image Source

Bauhaus Art
Bauhaus Art Image Source

Swiss Design

Closely related to the Bauhaus School is the Swiss style, also known as the International Typographic Style. This is a dominant design aesthetic from the mid 20th century that originated from Switzerland, and brought Bauhaus, then a more underground and obscure aesthetic, into the mainstream of advertising, art and design.

Swiss design is typified by bold, minimal, sans-serif typography along with a clear hierarchy of content, images and layout. What we can see from this Swiss style in the 40’s and 50’s is generally a large photograph with simple typography and the use of grids.

The Swiss design style gave birth to the popularity of Helvetica, designed in 1957. This is a wonderfully simple and elegant typeface, which has also become popular recently during the renaissance of flat design in 2014. Helvetica is popular because of its unique combination of retro nostalgia and futuristic design elements.

swiss design
Image Source

Minimalist Design

Minimalism is a term bandied about in web design a lot and has been used interchangeably to describe flat design. However let’s not get confused here. Minimalism is also a historical term that has its roots firmly planted in architecture, interior design, visual art and design.

The basic principles of minimalism dictate that a creator/artist should remove all extraneous elements out of the piece and leave only elements that are necessary. This means geometric shapes, clean lines and bold colour.

Here is a striking examples of minimalism at work:

minimalist design
Yves Klein’s The Blue Epoch Image Source

Join us for the next instalment of the Flat Design series where we explore how these retro styles have been resurrected using modern technology, and why their aesthetic appeal is truly timeless.

For well-informed and striking web design that is right on the pulse of the lest trends, speak with Total Web Design today! 

What to Know When Selecting Hosting

With aWith a myriad of options to choose from, selecting a web hosting plan can really be frustrating and challenging at the same time. The web hosting industry is so big and many web host providers offer the same basic features. But deciding which plan to opt for simply boils down to your business needs, while also keeping in mind its long term potential.

Here are some things you need to know when selecting a hosting plan:

First off, familiarise yourself with the different types of web hosting plans.

Free Web Hosting – Providing zero-cost, free web hosting plans have many restrictions and rules, as well as limited capabilities in customising your site. This type of hosting plan is not recommendable for online businesses because of ads placed on web pages. Free hosting is only suitable for small personal websites that are not expected to gain a large audience. Any business-oriented website that has a regular flow of traffic should always choose a paid hosting service, where you have better control of the site and the ability to customise it.

Shared Hosting – Most commonly used and most economical web hosting service, shared hosting service uses a single server that hosts multiple websites. Each site is allotted an agreed amount of bandwidth, disk space, etc. While shared hosting is a cheaper way for businesses to establish web presence, it is usually insufficient for websites with high traffic.

Dedicated Hosting – Providing more flexibility and control, a dedicated host uses a single server that hosts only one website or several sites for a single client. Dedicated hosting means you don’t need to share system resources with other websites. Getting a dedicated hosting service is only advisable only after gaining a large volume of visitors for your websites. Although generally pricier, a dedicated host can be inexpensive than shared hosting for people with multiple websites.

Now, after learning the various types of web hosting plans, you have to determine some of the important factors to be considered when assessing the right web host for your needs.

Space and Bandwidth – Your space and bandwidth requirements will considerably depend on how huge or how heavy on graphics your website is, including the expected amount of traffic. Though a small website may only take up between 10-100 MB, if you consider expanding in the near future, it is best to choose a web hosting plan with ample web space. Bandwidth or data transfer is usually around 500 MB for most small to medium-sized sites. Depending on your website, you may need more or significantly less.

Speed and Uptime – Of course, you want a reliable website that does not lag or go down. It’s terrible to have visitors leave your site because it is not working or is too sluggish that they totally lose interest. An excellent web host has an uptime guarantee (at least 99.9%) and has the initiative to notify you any scheduled downtime or maintenance.

Scalability and Flexibility – What are the implications should you run out web space or consume up your bandwidth limit and need to upgrade to a more robust plan? Can you easily change packages if necessary—and without penalty? If so, then you can save more by starting off with a small low-priced package with peace of mind that you can upgrade anytime for free. With that, you should select a web hosting plan that enables you to upgrade if your site becomes in demand, and downgrade if you are not getting enough visitors.

Extra Services – Are there any additional services included in the plan, such as free scripts, web traffic statistics tool, shopping carts, free email accounts, web design help, and other features? These perks can come handy and are worth looking into. Nevertheless, avoid paying for something you don’t need.

Technical Assistance – Reliable customer service and technical support are a must when it comes to deciding on a web host. You want to make sure that if you encounter a problem, you can get help fast and hassle-free. So, you need to identify what types of help are provided, what the support hours are, and whether the support is free of charge. You’d be surprised to know that different web hosts offer anywhere from virtually no technical support and all the way up to free phone, email and chat support 24/7.

Price – Last but definitely not the least, is the price—the value for money. Keep in mind that the lowest priced-package is not always your best bet here. Verify if payment terms are monthly or annually, and if there is a contract. There are even some companies that offer great discounts if you sign up for a multi-year contract. To absolutely avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to read carefully the fine print before agreeing to sign up.

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