The Argument Isn’t Skeuomorphic vs. Flat

You’re beating the wrong dead horse.

If you see a post on Designer News about skeuomorphic design, flat design, or any comparison of the two, you’ll now see a “Beating Dead Horse” icon next to it. The topic is tired, and many of the arguments are a carbon copy of the last.

My problem isn’t that people are beating a dead horse - it’s what our internet-age society does best. It’s that they’re beating the wrong dead horse.

Many of the columns, posts, and tweets about these two styles of design tout one over the other; most simply try to point to a winner, as if is there is a battle to be won. According to much of the internet, flat design is the lion that you really don’t want to see when you’re thrown into the gladiator pit. But how can you pick a winner without a defined battlefield?

Design is about communication. It’s about helping clients to realize their goals through a design solution geared toward their questions, concerns, wants, and needs. These design solutions should be viewed through the lens of the context of the specific problem. Without a full understanding of the brief, any critique is superficial.

And that’s the problem. We have a gaggle of graphic designers focusing on all of the wrong things. In a world where more and more people are interested in the relationship between design and the internet, we’re teaching them to think that graphic design is nothing more than a style preference.

Instead, people should be case studying the hell out of Apple’s skeumorphic design or pointing out the reasons why Microsoft’s use of flat design advances their UI/UX goals. This helps to promote what people have been saying about graphic design for a really long time: it’s about the client, the context, the design problem. That there’s far more to graphic design than the style of the final product.

If graphic designers are going to beat a dead horse, this is the one we should be beating.