Artwork made in Icons8 Vector Creator

Flat Illustrations, a Design Trend for 2020 and Beyond

We’ve fallen in love with flat and abstract illustrations in UX and won’t let them go.

Ksenia Pedchenko
Dec 6, 2019 · 4 min read

When observing the trends for the year 2019, many curators and teams drew your attention to the rise of human design: better writing, user-friendly microcopy and accessibility. As 2020 approaches, we can speak of these trends coming to the peak of their influence — flat illustrations in particular.

Illustrations for Mobile app Plants by Outcrowd

The motto “less is more” perfectly describes abstract and flat illustrations in UX. You don’t have to create a complex image anymore as a limited palette is much better in producing human corporate identity. But is it just the colour palette that matters?

Why are flat illustrations so popular?

Many companies, including Mailchimp and Slack, brought flat illustrations to their interfaces and therefore turned them into a trend that keeps gaining in popularity. This imagery is simple and humanized, which is also enough for a user to notice and love them. However, there are even more points on why they’re good for designers.

Mix-&-match Humaaans illustrations by Pablo Stanley
  • Flexibility & easy customization. Stock photos are 90% deathly-dull. You can’t adapt them to your project. But you can adapt and customize constructor-like UX illustrations to make them represent any abstract idea.
  • Uniqueness. Even if you don’t create original illustrations and use an online library instead, you can still bring lots of individuality to them. A series of such illustrations united by a single concept can help you create a powerful, catchy visual identity for your project.
  • Personality. There are many sub-styles in UX illustrations, so you can spot the one which represents you and, most importantly, your customer. They probably won’t say, “Yay, it’s me using this app,” but they’ll feel its relevance and get the message you’re trying to convey via the imagery.
  • Responsiveness. To adapt the app to different screens, you don’t only have to care about the grid and logo, but illustrations too. Flat illustrations let you easily recompose and simplify them, so they’ll fit both desktop and mobile versions.

Where get flat illustrations?

There are lots of teams to create new UX illustration generators and introduce them on Product Hunt, so there is no lack of fresh ideas. And in most cases, you can access entire catalogues for free.

  • Let me remind you of a mix & match constructor Humaaans by Pablo Stanley and a Vector Creator by Icons8, which includes 12 various styles.
Vector Creator by Icons8
  • Also, you should try Shape, a library of 2000+ customizable, animated icons & illustrations exportable to code. They also have a set of downloadable UI templates, so it should be convenient to elaborate an app from scratch.
  • If you want a kit tooled for Sketch or Figma, Smash Illustrations from Craftwork are a great fit. They have a vast free library, and it’s also possible to purchase an extended version of one of their thematic illustrations packs.
Characters of the Smash Illustrations from Craftwork
  • My personal pick is DrawKit. It’s a collection of customizable free SVG illustrations in two styles. There are also packs of illustrations, modular illustration systems, and animations which you can give a go and purchase if that’s right what you need for your project.

Custom flat illustrations

If you got a drawing skill, you can try creating your own set of flat illustrations and raise the grade of personality to the maximum. Opt for vector graphics, so you’ll get fully scalable imagery to use any way you like. For the rest, follow four major tips:

  • Don’t start with geometry. Make a sketch to find interesting details, movements, poses composition, and perspective. Play and experiment with them for the most winning look — and only then pass to geometrization.
  • Check and analyze references. Flat illustrations deliver multiple sub-styles, and there is definitely one to reflect your personality.
Adaptive vs Responsive by Lily for Fireart Studio
  • Use metaphors. There should be an idea behind an illustration, so by hiding some metaphors and symbols, you’ll make it less obvious and straightforward — and more eye-catching instead!
  • Stick to a uniform style. Remember to carefully select a colour palette and try adding textures and shadows. They will add volume to the images and make them more vibrant and powerful.

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Ksenia Pedchenko

Written by

Tell design tales and hope to marry Henry Cavill someday. Author in The Designest and copyright activist in Pixelbuddha

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +585K people. Follow to join our community.

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