Evolution of Design: From Flat to 3D Gradient and Skeuomorphism

Silas Silikhe
5 min readMay 24, 2023

--

Design trends are constantly changing, and as technology advances, new design aesthetics emerge. In recent years, we have seen a shift from flat design to 3D gradient design, with skeuomorphism being another popular design approach in the past. Let’s take a closer look at these design styles and how they have evolved over time.

3D Gradient Design

3D gradient design is a visual aesthetic that adds depth and dimensionality to flat elements, creating a sense of realism and depth on a digital screen. In simple terms, it involves using gradients to create a three-dimensional appearance in design elements.

For example, in 3D gradient design, buttons, icons, and illustrations may have a subtle gradient applied to them, giving them a sense of depth and making them look more tangible and interactive. The gradient is typically applied in a way that mimics how light would interact with physical objects, with lighter shades on the top and darker shades on the bottom, creating a sense of depth and dimensionality.

Some examples of websites that have used 3D gradient design effectively include Stripe (https://stripe.com/) and Mailchimp (https://mailchimp.com/). These websites use 3D gradients in their buttons, illustrations, and other design elements, giving them a modern and visually engaging look.

When creating 3D gradient designs, it’s important to consider some best practices. One key aspect is to ensure that the gradients used are subtle and do not overwhelm the overall design. The gradient should enhance the visual hierarchy and usability of the design, rather than distract from it. It’s also important to test the design on different devices and screen sizes to ensure that the 3D effect is still visually appealing and functional across different platforms.

Flat Design

Before the rise of 3D gradient design, flat design was a dominant design style that focused on minimalism, simplicity, and the use of flat, two-dimensional elements. Flat design uses simple shapes, solid colors, and crisp edges, with little or no gradients, shadows, or other visual embellishments.

In layman’s terms, flat design is like a clean and simple digital version of a paper cut-out. It uses bold colors, simple shapes, and minimalistic elements to create a clean and modern look.

Some examples of websites that have used flat design effectively include Google (https://www.google.com/) and Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/). These websites feature simple, flat design elements, with minimal use of gradients, shadows, or other visual effects.

Flat design became popular due to its minimalist and user-friendly approach, as it focuses on clear communication and easy navigation. However, one challenge of flat design is that it can sometimes lack visual depth and differentiation, making it harder to create a sense of hierarchy and interactivity in design elements.

Skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism is a design approach that involves using realistic textures, shadows, and other visual elements to make digital interfaces resemble physical objects in the real world. For example, the skeuomorphic design might use a realistic leather texture for a digital notebook or a wooden texture for a digital bookshelf.

In layman’s terms, skeuomorphism is like making digital objects look like real-world objects, complete with textures, shadows, and other visual cues that mimic their physical counterparts.

Some examples of websites that have used skeuomorphic design in the past include Apple’s iOS 6 (https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-6/) and the iBooks app (https://www.apple.com/ibooks/). These designs used realistic textures, shadows, and other visual elements to create a sense of familiarity and ease of use.

Skeuomorphism was popular in the early days of digital design as it helped users easily relate to digital interfaces by leveraging their familiarity with physical objects. However, over time, the skeuomorphic design fell out of favor as the trend shifted towards more minimalistic and flat design styles.

One challenge of skeuomorphic design is that it can sometimes result in cluttered and visually complex interfaces, especially when applied excessively or inappropriately. It can also create inconsistencies between digital and physical interactions, leading to confusion for users.

How Designers Can Source Better Feedback Using Work-in-Progress Tools

As designers, feedback is crucial for the iterative design process. However, it’s important to ensure that the feedback we receive is from the right sources and at the right level of fidelity. Here are some insights on how designers can source better feedback using work-in-progress tools, such as Behance and other platforms.

Avoid Getting Feedback from the Wrong Person

It’s important to get feedback from individuals who have the right context and understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Avoid seeking feedback from random people who may not have the knowledge or experience to provide meaningful feedback.

For example, if you’re working on a web design project, seek feedback from other web designers, UX/UI experts, or stakeholders who have a clear understanding of the project’s goals and requirements. This ensures that the feedback you receive is relevant and actionable.

Consider the Level of Fidelity

Different stages of the design process require different types of feedback. When you’re in the early stages of product discovery or ideation, focus on gathering feedback on the concept, usability, and feasibility of the design. As you progress to more polished visual designs, feedback can shift towards aesthetics, typography, and other visual elements.

Avoid seeking visual feedback when you’re still in the early stages of ideation, as it can distract from the overall concept and direction of the design. Similarly, avoid seeking conceptual feedback when you’re in the later stages of visual polishing, as it may not be as relevant.

Use Work-in-Progress Tools for Feedback

Work-in-progress tools, such as Behance, Dribbble, and InVision, can be valuable resources for sourcing feedback from other designers and stakeholders. These platforms allow you to share your design progress and gather feedback from a community of professionals.

When using these tools, be clear about the type of feedback you’re seeking and provide enough context about the project, its goals, and its current stage. This helps reviewers provide more meaningful feedback that aligns with your design objectives.

Act on Feedback

Receiving feedback is only valuable if you act on it. Be open to feedback, evaluate it objectively, and use it to iterate and improve your design. Consider the feedback in the context of your design goals and make informed decisions on how to incorporate it into your design.

Remember, not all feedback may be relevant or aligned with your design vision, and it’s important to use your judgment in incorporating feedback that adds value to your design.

In conclusion, sourcing feedback from the right sources and at the right level of fidelity is crucial for designers. Utilizing work-in-progress tools and platforms can be an effective way to gather feedback from a relevant community of professionals. However, it’s important to evaluate and act on feedback thoughtfully, keeping in mind your design goals and objectives.

--

--

Silas Silikhe

Step into my tech world, where I share insights on Product Design and Software Development for impactful empowerment. www.silikhe.com