How are Flat Design and Material Design Different?

Flat design isn’t all that new, but Material Design is a relatively recent spin on the old design philosophy of using less to do more. Whether you’re looking to design a web site’s slick interface, or you just want to brush up on a reason to get into Material Design, here’s a quick run-down of what each does, and how they differ for both users and designers.

How are Flat Design and Material Design Different?

With Flat Design:

  • You’re working with the basics. As the name suggests, it’s the use of flat colors, typography, and icons. It’s meant to be a coherent e-sign that goes more toward user functionality, with color schemes that make different elements of the user interface easy to understand at an immediate glance. It’s all about practicality.
  • There’s no illusion about what flat design is. The flatness is a response to the concept of skeumorphism, or the pseudo-3D elements that you may have seen in earlier versions of iOS applications. The end result is that users can quickly browse through a site and know which elements go where, what’s important to read, and do so all without any distractions.
  • It’s also easy to go overboard. Flat design lends itself to creating very flat scapes, with a very set combination of appealing colors, which means that there’s a lot of different ways for a designer to make a site that ends up looking like many others in the crowd, or to design an interface that is just not interesting at all. There are not all positives with flat design, and there are always steps to take to remedy the situation, but be forewarned.
How are Flat Design and Material Design Different?

With Material Design:

  • You can play with layering, as Material Design focuses on a three dimensional arrangement and space. Materials come with all of their own definitions, and they are extremely applicable to the mobile experience.
  • Animations become a valuable tool. For the new perspective on interactive user interfaces, there’s little that’s garnered more attention than the idea of animation that is predicated upon that interaction. It’s something that you may not get as well when using simple flat design, but with Material Design, you can shrink, expand, and warp elements based on user interaction in ways that don’t compromise your overall presentation.
  • Responsive becomes even more so, as mentioned with the animated elements and layering, you have less to worry about with element warping and issues of overlap that wasn’t intended. You have a lot more room on the field, and animations make it possible to keep the intended amount of site elements without making the mobile user’s experience worse.

Neither is better by default, and you may end up choosing one over the other based on your own site’s needs and intended goals, but it’s important to remember that Material Design is a new, and evolving, design philosophy and tool. You may have more room to grow by making the switch.

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