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A Look at Microsoft, Google and Apple’s Approach to Flat Design

Editor’s note: TThis is really a contributed post by designer Roman Po who may have done projects for Disney and ABC. He is a writer at, where he obsesses over innovations in mobile GUI, UX and web site design. You can find his latest blog articles over at and

Flat design has become a trend in graphical user interface design for a few years now. It is basically simplifying the interface by retaining the necessities and removing unimportant elements including gloss, bevels and textures. Flat design serves as a being true to its digital medium without the need for any graphical parallelism to real life objects.

The most popular operating systems on the planet, Windows, iOS and Android, have slowly been shifting their design language to some more minimalistic and cleaner look that's characterised by presenting data in grids, larger title headers, extensive utilization of white space, adoption of solid color palettes and condensed flatter font-types.

Ultimate Guide To Flat Website Design

Let’s examine how these 3 companies approach and implement flat design by themselves OS and related services.

Microsoft: It’s hip being square

Microsoft first introduced their “authentically digital” interface while using launch of Windows 8 as well as their Modern UI. Windows Media Center as well as the now defunct Zune brand ushered with this new era of design for Microsoft however it was Windows 8′s radical departure from your sea of icons - which most desktop OS used ever since - that changed the sport.

The new Windows 8 Start screen is currently powered by Live Tiles (animated, notification-like widget) sorted in grids with a horizontal scrolling layout which takes advantage of common landscape displays.

Windows 8′s Metro Modern UI is situated heavily about the Bauhaus movement, founded by architect Walter Gropius, including proponents of the school’s philosophy Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and modernist painter Piet Mondrian. It was also inspired by metro transit signs in terms of icons and typography.

Microsoft’s Swiss-inspired interface eschews non-essential elements like shadows, gloss, textures and puts content first before Google’s Chrome browser. Grid alignment, typography and negative space form the whole, giving a full-screen experience engaging and immersive for users, specially those on touchscreen devices.

Google: Holding The Cards

Google started defining clear design guidelines for Android with all the launch of Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.4 has become called KitKat!) Google made a distinct design type of its own and dubbed it Holo, playing which has a TRON theme at first but eventually maturing right into a minimalistic card-type interface which is now prevalent on many of its products.

Google’s card-based design is visible most notably on Google Now. The use of white spaces and condensed Roboto typeface make overall layout very clean and all to easy to digest. The design, while considered flat, still uses subtle gradients and shadows as elements to help highlighted, stacked cards.

Textual details are organized per size and color along with order worth addressing. Title headers are usually larger and dark while descriptive copies are grayed and often italicized. Google’s using flat-toned vector illustrations and icons also echoes the company’s dedication to clean and modern design.

Apple: In with the Neue

Apple just redesigned the appearance and feel of its new mobile version, iOS7, to possess flatter and solid color tones when compared with its old interface. iOS7 has taken some cues from Microsoft and Google using simpler icons, fresh type treatment as well as an overall flatter environment in this recent iphone redesign.

It can be stated that critics of Apple’s hyper-skeuomorphic (or obsessive design realism) approach on its platform, notably native apps like Game Center having its felt background and Calendar’s leather textures, prompted the modification.

With iOS7, Apple introduced the usage of blurred translucency to supply a sense of context make for the onscreen elements. The new version also introduced a thinner, modern-looking typeface in the form of Helvetica Neue Light. This fits the general new interface with a lighter and breathable layout especially inside the Mail and Calendar app.

Subtle improvements such as the parallax effect add depth and motion on the launcher screen. Granted few people loves Apple’s drastic switch to the new iphone design, with designers are creating iphone design alternatives but we can expect to see really it as the brand new iPhone 5S unveil soon.

Different Ideals

These 3 tech companies have different directions on his or her new user interfaces. Microsoft devoted to delivering a colorful, purely flat and utilitarian interface featuring its Modern UI. Google, about the other hand, is much more comfortable presenting useful and timely data on white, card-like containers, quite just like how the Google website looks.

Apple meanwhile assumes Microsoft’s colorfulness (on software and hardware) while also adding cool digital tricks like iOS7′s home screen’s parallax effect. Most of these new interfaces are also similar in a manner that they have become also designed to become responsive and flexible since they run on multiple devices from small form-factor phones to large-screen tablets and desktops.

The Microsoft Effect

While Microsoft didn’t start the flat design trend (just as much as Google started web search), I believe we were holding the ones who’ve developed a big impact thanks to the development and marketing of Windows 8 which has mandated every PC on the planet as well as user being accustomed for this new and unique interface.

If you’ve ever watch Microsoft’s Vision of the Future, you’ll recognize that the Modern UI we've right now is simply the beginning of a new variety of natural user interfaces combining touch, voice and sensors. Microsoft’s properties like Xbox+Kinect, Windows Phone and even Bing is already implementing Microsoft’s "3-screens along with a cloud” vision of your unified platform (PC, television and mobile) so the future presented may not be too far at all.

Moving Forward

It’s clear that Apple, Google and Microsoft have become moving to more streamlined, minimalistic and cleaner designs for every of their operating systems. Form over function or function over form, because the famous modermist aphorism dictates, users may ultimately have to decide which of these 3 approach they’d prefer.

It’s probably safe to say though that flat design trend has already developed a mark and are here for quite some time. Flat is just the beginning even as we move to a more genuine and honest design future.

Related posts:

  1. Showcase of Beautiful Flat UI Design

  2. 40 Free Fonts for Flat Design

  3. Ultimate Guide to Flat Website Design

  4. 20 Flat Mobile Icons Designs for Your Inspiration

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