A brief history of flat design

Flat design has recently become very popular, especially with the flat iOS 7 design from Apple.  I’ve really been enjoying flat designs, but I was curious on how we got here.  This blog post will cover it’s origins, and the the evolution of flat design.

It assumes you know what flat design is, but in case you don’t, here’s a quick crash course that compares iOS 6 and iOS 7 (flat design) icons (infographic provided by pawsupforu):

Swiss Style

Flat design started with Swiss style (also referred to a International Typographic style), which was a design philosophy for print in the 1950s.  It emphasized minimalism, cleanliness, and organization of content above all.  The underlying style was already used as far back as the 1920s in other countries as well such as Germany, the Netherlands and Russia,  but it was Swiss designers that made it famous.

Images sources: Smashing MagazineAshDowie.co.uk, AisleOne.netArantxa Rues

As you can see above, Swiss style embraces simplicity and typography over anything else.  Some of it’s fundamentals are the use of a grid system for aligning content, and of course sans serif typefaces.  Speaking of sans serif typefaces,  Helvetica font was also invented in Switzerland during the same era (1957), and “Helvetica” is Latin for referring to a inhabitant of “Helvetia” (i.e. Switzerland) (Source).

Image sources: By 2Canart , imjustcreative.com ,  Sbradway

Evolution of Flat Design

Flat design has gained a lot of traction over the last year.  It strips away all the “bells and whistles” so to speak, so that you are left with colors, simple shapes and content.  Just like for Swiss style designs, designers carefully utilize color, alignment, and simple font faces to create beautiful flat designs. Flat design is really the digital adapatation of Swiss Style design.

Arguably, flat design started gaining popularity with the release of Windows 7 Mobile, which introduced live tiles, and unleashed flat design to the average consumer.


Flat Design Today

Flat design has come a long way since it started getting popular among designers.  Over the past couple years, there has been a lot of different mobile and web user interfaces that have been redesigned to be flat.  It’s not to say that all flat designs look the same, instead, good designers are able to innovate while keeping their designs flat.

The biggest transition to a flat design has been iOS 7, which will be rolled out to all iPhones by Q3 of this year.  Apple will be switching from a “flashier” user interface, to a very flat design.  I will not be going over my opinion of iOS 7′s design, but the reception so far has been mixed, even among deisngers.

Here are 9 amazing flat designs, ranging from mobile to web.

Image sources: BuyableApple,  Weather AppGoogle+ flat design conceptFlat UI IconsWeather AppFoundationMailbox AppBambooHRNextr


Flat design is the digital adaptation of Swiss style design.  We have seen it evolve over the past two years, but is flat design just a fad, or is it here to stay?  If so, how will it evolve next?