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Sculptor, Tech Artist, UX Designer, Analyst, Philosopher

Flat and Fresh (for now)

It is the natural progression of language that new ideas are communicated wrapped in metaphors of the familiar.  Once established, these become the new familiar.  Metaphorical images are typically simplified into iconic representations. Examples are not hard to find; Chinese characters, Byzantine religious icons, and of course, the icons on your IPhone.

Such simplification is useful as it enables more dense information in the same relative space or cognitive bandwidth.  Reduced overhead of information density can make interaction more efficient and feel simpler and easier.Flat design is such a progression. In fact, the radical flip flop from skew-morphism is such a vivid example of this as to be cartoonish. Cartoons, yes. The classic cartoon is itself a simplification of a complex idea into a simplified and notably flat rendition of an idea.

I wrote about this recently in my blogpost, “Where have all the affordances gone” http://belveal.net/?p=1777 Degraded usability is the primary concern in that post. But there are other downsides, maybe less impacting, but at least as annoying.  The trouble with flat design in practice is that graphic designers, robbed of the option for excessive skew-morphism, tend to crank up the noise on other superfluous elements such as color, scale, grids, and random white space that make for excitement, but muddle the user experience in new flat ways. Minimalism is good because it quiets the supporting players in the scene to allow for more new stars to be scene on stage.  But make no mistake. Metro isn’t minimalism.

Like some others, I don’t actually see the flat trend and skew-morphism as polar opposites necessarily.  Both are eccentricities. Neither has communication as its primary objective. Swapping one stylish distortion for another is a sad trade-off.  Every new style or fashion is, to some degree, a rebellion against the last one.  What is truly new is that technology has become so mainstream that the whims of pop culture drive so much of its design.  Us old techies aren’t used to that.Prediction: Much of the flat trend will stick because it is the natural progression of language, it can add efficiency, and it just makes sense. However, pushed too far, it will incite a rebellion which may manifest itself in a nostalgic return to skew-morphism, though likely with a new twist. What that twist is remains to be seen.

Designers like flat because it is fresh.  Keep in mind that freshness only lasts a little while.  Skew-morphism was itself considered fresh as it departed from the overly widgety look of the 1990s GUI.  What expiration date is on the freshness of flat, like that on a milk carton, may be hard to read. But know that there is one.

What is flat and fresh today will eventually be just as exciting as flat beer.

Also, keep in mind that skew-morphism was over-emphasized in the past, because it was fun. Beyond communicating ideas in the metaphors of the familiar, it poked fun at the very technology it represented with the deliberate intent of deflating the beast of intimidating technology.  My metal artwork, in turn, poked fun at skew-morphism, rather overtly. ( See MyFavorite Machine ) Why?  Because it was fun, of course!  Now that Flat is all the rage, I feel obligated to poke fun at that in my art.  This poses an interesting challenge, but stay tuned. :-)

- roger

related article

Great Show

thank you to everyone who came out to see the art on Saturday at the Vivify Offices in the Shops at Legacy.  We had around three hundred people in all.  Everyone seemed to have a great time hanging out, enjoying the art, music and conversation.

A lot of art was purchased!  Thank you and the Art conspiracy thanks you for the support (this was a fund raiser). Thank you to Vivify Health for hosting. Thank you to Thirsty Canvas for putting all the details together!

It’s always fun for me to see people enjoying the art I make.  It is after all really a form of “Experience Design” as people find something in the art that they can connect to and enjoy.  It happens every time and this is time was no exception.  There was plenty of excitement when people see the big smart phone monoliths. Then the smiles as they spot familiar objects and images. And touching it is automatic.  no one asks permission and no one can resist.  Just the way I like it.

Tons of great photos from the show.  I’m posting a few here.

For the benefit of Art Conspiracy There will be a show Saturday at The Shops at Legacy The tech artists will all be there Roger Belveal, Desmond Blair, what a scene See paint and metal, lights, and canvas, course concrete and sculpture made from real fire In this way virtual themes enter the world

The celebrated MyPhoneHenge at Vivify on Saturday at Bishop Road Therapeutic Smile will sing with Anna Thomas following, don’t be late Sponsor Thirsty Canvas assures the public This production will be second to none And of course there’s a bar there’s a bar

The band begins at five o-clock But come at noon to browse the art without a sound. The art for sale will demonstrate and ArtCon will appreciate the purchase round. Having been some days in preparation A splendid time is guaranteed for all And tonight Mr. B’s are topping the bill

(If this seems weird try some background music)

 

Topping the Bill at Legacy Show

For the benefit of Art Conspiracy
There will be a show Saturday at The Shops at Legacy
The tech artists will all be there
Roger Belveal, Desmond Blair, what a scene
See paint and metal, lights, and canvas,
course concrete and sculpture made from real fire
In this way virtual themes enter the world
top

The celebrated MyPhoneHenge
at Vivify on Saturday at Bishop Road
Therapeutic Smile will sing
with Anna Thomas following, don’t be late
Sponsor Thirsty Canvas assures the public
This production will be second to none
And of course there’s a bar there’s a bar

The band begins at five o-clock
But come at noon to browse the art without a sound.
The art for sale will demonstrate
and ArtCon will appreciate the purchase round.
Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. B’s are topping the bill

(If this seems weird try some background music)

MyPhonehenge will be the central feature in the show benefiting Art Conspiracy.
Location: Vivify Health Headquarters, Shops at Legacy, 7201 Bishop Rd., Plano, TX
Opening: September 14, 2013

Facebook page for this event

Flickr Slideshow of MyPhoneHenge

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