10 Years of Flat Design

On June 10th, 2013, exactly 10 years ago, Apple introduced its non-skeuomorphic, “flat” design idiom, together with iOS 7… and since that moment, for a whole decade, many users have collectively struggled to use their devices properly.

Flat design is a tragedy that doesn’t need to be. I have written an article about the subject in De Programmatica Ipsum, so I’ll just leave this here.

As my father approaches his 80th birthday, his first contacts with the latest technologies become ever more interesting. As a pen-and-pencil architect and entrepreneur with 50 years of experience, technology is not a necessity; rather, just another useful tool. He setup his first fax machine at the end of the 90s, and got his first computer a decade after that. At some point in the 2010s he bought a smartphone, and one day asked me for help to finish some task on it. I remember his face when I told him to “touch the button that says ‘done’” and he replied, “which button? I do not see any button”.

In Spanish, just like in English, the word “button” (“botón”) can be used as both “push button” or “shirt button”. Being the son of an immigrant costume taylor who moved from Poland to Buenos Aires in the 1930s, my father’s brain first considered the latter meaning of the word “button”, before the former kicked in.

Truth is, on his smartphone, neither of these things were visible. Nor a push button, nor a shirt button, not a light switch, not a calculator button, not a door knob, not a push lever, nothing. What was visible was, instead, the blue word “Done” eerily floating on the top right corner of the screen.

As my father said, there was no button.

The Button And The Spoon at De Programmatica Ipsum, January 2022.

Still rooting for an end to this madness, and to have contrast again on our screens. Ten years is enough.

Update, 2023-10-27: Just found this old screenshot of Mobile Safari circa 2011…