Is there a Design Mafia?

Now before you judge this story as a mere clickbait let me tell you what it is about. In the recent times, I have seen a sea shift in the way designers think. It is very frustrating to me when I hear a designer say, “Let’s flatten it and make it pretty. Let’s lose all the colors.” I decided to write this after looking at the new Instagram UI. But, unfortunately could not ever get to it until now due to work and other personal commitments. I will try my best not to make it sound like a rant.

Previously and Now (Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTg5G8yax9c)
Instagram: We want the picture to be the focus

When Instagram launched the new design, every blog sung the same theme. Now I agree that the previous design has some disturbances, but with the new one, no one can argue that they went the complete opposite direction. To explain the same, lets recap some of the fundamentals of design.

There is a lot of UX in UI

When we design User Interfaces, as responsible designers it is our duty that we have a solid rationale with respect to our visual design decisions. For instance, change in color, size, shape of an object makes it stand out in a crowd of other objects.
The new Instagram design breaks this fundamental principle in design. Do we need multitude of objects of the same color and shape so that the image stands out? The image was at the epicenter of the page even in the previous version and one can easily argue that it does attract the fovea (focus area)of the user being one of the most-pronounced elements on the screen.

Comments previously (Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTg5G8yax9c)
Comments now (Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTg5G8yax9c)

I would specifically like us to focus on the comments section. On an enlarged screen, such as your computer, all of it looks pretty nice with respect to the new design. But, as you go to a smaller handheld screen, the blue hashtags and the comments look no different. It is also very difficult to differentiate between the person’s name and the comment itself. I know these are minor issues, but these are the very fundamentals a good, readable UI used to be based on. Concepts of affordances, similarity and other gestalt principles all vanishing into thin air.

Now this is not an Instagram shaming post, so let’s move on. Besides, the stuff they have done with their bottom tabs is a great improvement. Removing colors from there, especially the bright blue-colored capture button helps negate any sort of distraction in my peripheral vision.

So why are people not complaining?

That is a valid question. The answer to that is simple: WE ARE ALL SO LOCKED IN! All the major consumer, fun apps that we use to ‘stay in touch’ with our people or — lets just say show off (I am guilty of the same) — were the first of their kind, and did most things perfectly from a problem-solving sense when they launched. Hence, the users have today invested a lot of time, building a following and a presence on them that they cannot let go of.
Consider a real life scenario: You buy an expensive sports car, a Ferrari. It is the car of your dreams and you love the way it drives. But there is an issue with the door. It never unlocks on the first try. More often than not, you learn to live with that defect. That is exactly what apps that have accumulated a more-than-substantial mass of people on them, today are doing to their users.

Is this a passing trend?

I believe so. Or at least I am hoping it is. If you look at the last 6–8 years, we have moved from skeuomorphic designs to completely flat designs that lack basic affordances. I am sure Steve Jobs is turning in his grave…haha!
But, honestly the reason I say this is a passing trend is because there have been similar trends in art and architecture. ‘Less is more’, said Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, and everyone in the world of architecture started designing buildings showing steel beams and stones. Soon came a time, when the modernist era reached a threshold and Robert Venturi came out and shouted, ‘Less is a bore’. Thus began the post-modern era.
We are currently in that Modern era in the digital universe and very near to its peak.

There will be a Digital Venturi, who will break this and maybe…just maybe, we will see our first 3-d website…Haha!

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