Between flat and 3D. A brief history of Graphical User Interface Design trends.

In June 25 2014 Google introduced the new Android Lollipop which showcased a new approach to user interface design referred as Material Design. Google is aligning all its products with the same UI guidelines.

Material Design is actually an approach of the Flat Design Trend, which came with the Metro UI introduced by Microsoft in 2011.

Old Flat Design

Even if a lot of designers compare the 3D style or aqua with skeumorphism oposed to flat design, the truth is that the whole idea of virtual represenation of real life objects was present in the first graphical user interface of Xerox Parc and the Macintosh (look at the picture below as an example the calculator layout is the same as a real calculator. Skeumorphism is not equal to glossy effects and shadows. There is the semantic level which uses folders and buttons, tabs and sheets of paper to represent chunks of data.

  • Apple’s first GUI in the Macintosh 1984

  • Microsoft’s WIndows 1.0 (1985)

3D Design

Simulation of real illumination with Shadows and specular effects.

  • Aqua OSX (2000)

  • Microsoft Windows XP (2001)

Flat Design (from 2011)


Further reading

Why skeumorphism is a good thing.

– Evolution of apple.com. Web design.


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