The ultimate guide to flat design
It is easy to say that 2013 has so far been the year of flat design.
Even Apple, the driver of the skeuomorphic design trend for many years, is trying some level of flat design when it releases iOS 7 later this year.
So are you ready to try it out as well? Not sure how to get started? WebdesignerDepot is here to help with a guide of flat design resources. We’ve put together a giant list of everything flat design, from free UI kits to color palettes to typography options.
If you want to test the flat design waters or swim out a little deeper, we have everything you need to get started, from ready-made tools to tutorials for the do-it-yourselfer.
Flat design 101
Flat design is a style that lacks the “tricks” designers often use in order to create a realistic or three-dimensional effect. The style is characterized by an overall minimalistic look, bright but muted colors, bold — often retro — typography and simple user interface elements such as buttons or icons.
Flat design techniques avoid embellishments such as bevels, embossing, drop shadows, gradients or artificial textures.
The design style is hugely popular for simple websites that only include a few pages and for mobile applications. Flat design has also been criticized for its overall simplicity, use of illustrations (that some label as cartoonish) and a user interface style that can be difficult for some users to understand.
Animation is typically avoided in flat design projects and large images are in. In minimal design schemes, designers often give plenty of room to the content, allowing it to tell the story in a simple, direct manner.
Several other trends have begun to emerge out of flat design: “almost flat design”, “long shadow design” and a re-emphasis on the always popular minimalist design.
“Almost flat design” is based on flat design but may include some degree of minimal effect, such as a simple shadow inside of an element or basic gradient.
“Long shadow design” is used almost exclusively for icons and is exemplified by an image within an icon frame that has a tinted area that extends from the image; long shadows typically fall at 45-degree angles and include the same characteristics the rest of the flat design scheme.
Flat design has also brought an emphasis back to minimalist design, even for designers not using flat-style techniques. As part of the overall trend, there has been a re-emphasis on white space; color, sharp shapes and lines; and a return to simple and basic typography.
User interface kits are a great way to get started with a flat design project.
Kits can save you time – important when following a trend – with a pre-designed package of parts. Most UI kits come in the Adobe Photoshop file format (PSD) and are fully editable if you are comfortable with the software.
The kits below range from simple, free kits to more comprehensive downloads with licensing options. The number of available flat-style UI kits is growing daily; we’ve complied a list that includes a number of varying styles.
When choosing a user interface kit, don’t get too hung up on color or color palette. Most kits include usable colors if you don’t have a palette in mind, but allow you to change the overall color scheme with just a few clicks. Save time by creating usable swatches before opening the kit so that you don’t have to type in manual color values for each change. Also consider using your color palette in the same way as the kit designer used the default swatches, mirroring color choices in tone, saturation and contrast for elements in the kit.
Featherweight UI (free)
Featherweight UI is a simple, retina-ready kit that includes a handful of sharp elements, including menus, a photo scroll, map, simple icons and scroll widgets. While the kit is not incredibly large it has an elegant style and plays up the more retro color theme often associated with flat design.
Polaris UI kit (free)
Another kit by Designmodo featuring a darker style package. This kit contains a variety of buttons and panels that mirror the look of the Windows flat user interface. While Polaris contains parts that are designed in the flat style, it also includes some elements in the skeuomorphic style.
Erste UI kit (free)
This simple UI kit contains a handful of basic elements, such as social login buttons, menus and a media player. The colors are characteristic of flat design, using a palette of primary hues.
FlatUI kit (free)
The kit designed by Freepik.com for WebdesignerDepot contains a large number of elements, from navigation to drop down menus to social sharing tools to e-commerce modules.
Flat UI (free)
This free kit from Designmodo — one of the first design groups to fully embrace the flat design trend — is a brightly-colored starting part. The kit includes hundreds of elements, including buttons, icons, color swatches and menu items.
Flat UI kit (free)
Riki Tanone’s kit of flat user interface widgets is a fun little pack containing parts that are a little more put together: a chart, media player, task wheel and counter. This is a great starter tool for imagining how to combine simpler UI parts into more complex items.
Metro UI kit (free)
The Metro UI kit is a colorful kit that embodies the concept of flat as reintroduced by the Windows phone. The colors and style are both reminiscent of the phone interface, with lots of colorful blocks and simple typography. The kit includes a calendar, stats, chart, icons, menus and search elements.
Monotone flat UI kit (free)
While using a variety of bright colors is a popular choice for many designers using flat design, monotone color palettes are equally characteristic of the trend. This UI kit by Sebastiaan Scheer includes a few simple elements and great graduations of color.
Vertical Infinity (free)
Vertical Infinity, by CSS Author, is one of the bigger free kits available and is retina-ready. The manageable kit includes everything from drop down menus to buttons to form elements to widgets and social icons. The style is basic without a lot of extras but would be easy to use in almost any application.
Lil UI kit ($6)
This UI kit by Lil Squid Design is almost a steal with so many matched pieces, including 18 categories of elements. The vector kit is customizable and was designed for visual simplicity and consistency.
Flat UI kit ($19)
Ideation Pro’s flat UI kit includes a handful of nice simple elements — icons, form fields and buttons — to help get a project going. The elements are perfectly matched, include bright colors and could work great for a simple mobile project.
Flat UI pro (from $39)
Flat UI Pro is Designmodo’s comprehensive UI kit featuring the flat style. The kit is made for Twitter Bootstrap and includes full PSD files for customization. The kit is fully responsive; contains a ton of elements, icons and glyphs; color swatches and is retina-display ready.
Flat UI PSD ($5)
While this kit is in the flat style, some elements could be considered “almost flat.” The buttons, for example, include a light shadow behind the text to provide a little more color contrast.
Square UI (from $39)
Square UI is a comprehensive UI kit from Designmodo with a large array of buttons and elements. This kit differs from some of the others because it breaks tradition with the color palette and uses a much darker scheme. The kit contains elements, navigation and hundreds of components. The kit downloads in an editable, layer format for customization and includes light and dark color palettes with pre-built swatch files. The elaborate kit looks less like a kit than many other options out there and is retina-display ready.
Flat-style icons are everywhere and you can grab many of these kits for free from a variety of places.
Like UI kits, most icon packs are delivered as a PSD download, making the icons easy to customize.
Many of the icons are designed in the specification and style for mobile device applications. These icons, though, have other uses as well and could make great website buttons.
When choosing a set of icons, look for kits that contain icons in size options the meet your needs. While some kits are drawn as vector shapes, others may come in set sizes that can result in a loss of quality if used too large.
40 social media flat icons (free)
This comprehensive social media icon set has almost every popular network and website included in a beautiful icon set that uses both a flat style and long shadow design. Icons are set in a way that make each easy to identify and with a color outline that is sharp and distinct. Each icon is also available in four sizes – 32, 64, 128 and 256 pixels square. While you could customize this kit, it is unlikely you will need to.
Freebie PSD — flat icons (free)
This simple download includes complex icons in a flat style. These icons include a little more detailing and styling than most flat elements. This kit is available for PC download only.
12 flat SEO icons (free)
This set of social media icons is one of the brightest out there. The kit designed by Vladislav Karpov for WebdesignerDepot contains 12 icons, that showcases everything from SEO performance to copywriting to web analytics that use both the flat style and contain some long shadows. This kit would work great for a portfolio or agency site design.
Free flat icon set (free)
While many flat design schemes rely on high-color visuals, some designers are opting to keep icons more simple so they don’t compete with other elements and parts of the overall design. This small icon set (9 icons) features low color, low contrast elements for ease of application.
Flat file icons (free)
Every designer who builds a site that includes downloadable files needs a set of file icons. This quad of icons represents the most popular file options – upload, download, settings and charts. Or you can change out the center icons for your custom options.
Flat icons freebie (free)
Flat icons with rounded edges are some of the lesser used icons. This set does just that in a way the maintains the integrity of flat design. The kit includes nine icons for common elements, such as weather, mail and a calendar.
Flat social media icons (free)
No site is complete these days without a set of social media links. Designmodo’s kit contains 35 social media buttons for a variety of popular networks. The color scheme is bright and icon colors match the networks they associate with, creating an immediate visual cue.
PSD flat social icons (free)
This set of 16 social media icons uses both the flat style and long shadow design techniques. This kit also breaks outside the idea of square icons, with a mix of circle and square shapes with slightly rounded corners.
IconShock flat icons (from $19)
This might be the largest set of flat icons out there. With 3,600 icons in three size options, this kit has an icon for almost everything. It includes basic elements, file types, shapes, and common items. What it is missing are popular social media icons. It’s also free for personal use.
FlatIcons (from $30)
With various options that include multiple file formats, FlatIcons is one of the simplest and most comprehensive kits on the market. Every icon is built to customize in shape, size, and scale. Kits are built so that every icon matches perfectly every time, and comes with a great built-in search function so you can quickly find the icon you need. Files are distributed as both copiable CSS/unicode values or in PSD format.
Other flat elements
Sometimes you find the need for elements that aren’t part of any other kit. The flat style is being used for almost everything these days, including these useful tools.
Apple product templates (free)
Getting ready to unveil a new design and want to show it off inside of a device? The Apple template from MediaLoot is designed in the flat style, and is usable in a number of ways.
E-comerce flat web elements (free)
Although flat design has not been embraced by a large number of e-commerce sites simple sales sites could benefit from the simple buttons in this kit. From a chat module to cart and checkout buttons, this kit has enough basic elements to get started or to build on for an online retailer.
Flat credit cards (free)
It is important to pay attention to every detail when picking a design scheme, even something as small as these credit card icons. Maintaining consistency is key and these simple, credit cards are recognizable and fit into any flat design.
Friends list UI (free)
Create a neat and organized list with this UI PSD, designed for the iPhone interface. The coral color is quite common in flat design as is the simple sans-serif typography and icons.
Radial graph (free)
Charts and graphs can be some of the more complicated items to build from scratch. This radial graph PSD is an excellent getting-started tool. The colors and sizes are customizable and easy to change, thanks to this simple vector design.
Sign-up form (free)
Flat design is popular for website design touting something that is coming soon, from a full site to a mobile application. In both instances, this makes the use of a sign up form popular, making it easy to notify users when the site or application goes live.
Flat browser frames ($5)
Create a custom browser frame for screenshots in the flat style. (This is becoming commonplace for designers and sites that want to showcase upcoming applications.) This kit contains 10 different browser frame styles in vector format that can be used as-is or customized for a completely different look.
Flat design flyer template ($6)
Most websites include some sort of companion pieces, from business cards to posters or fliers. The Flat Design Flyer Template helps you convert your web design outline into a usable print piece in the same flat style. The flier comes in a print-ready template, complete with CMYK colors and a quarter-inch bleed.
Flavor business card ($6)
Match business cards to the idea behind the same flat design scheme from your website. The Flavor business card template comes in a standard size and is CMYK print-ready. Colors and fonts can be matched to your site design for a perfect piece.
Pricing tables ($4)
Even if the main purpose of your site is not sales, but you do offer products or subscriptions, pricing tables may be important to have. This set of monotone tables complements a variety of other flat design elements and is an item that a lot of UI kits do not include. This particular kit is built for Twitter Bootstrap.
Creating a great flat design website does not have to happen from scratch. WordPress theme designers immediately jumped on the trend and there are quite a few great paid and free themes available for download.
What’s nice about using a pre-packaged theme is that you can get your design and site up and running in almost no time. Quality themes will have a clean, clear consistent look. Opt for buying (or downloading) a theme that includes everything you need right “out of the box.” Think about whether your site should be responsive, needs e-commerce features or forms, if you want something that offers customization, retina-ready graphics, multiple- or single-page design and icon packs or inclusions. Make a list of wants and needs first to make finding the right theme that much easier.
Typically, the best options, support and flexibility come with a premium (or paid) WordPress theme. These themes often look more professional, have cleaner code and offer support that free versions often lack. However free themes can be a fun and simple way to start building a site. While these theme options can be limiting and offer only a small selection of the options paid themes include, they can be useful.
Made for blogs, this theme is simple and uses a bright, creamy color palette.
This responsive flat-style theme uses clean lines and bright colors on alternating dark and light backgrounds. Some of the background images are a bit textured.
Current is perfectly flat in every aspect of the design and is designed as a gateway page for a new product.
This simple and professional theme in the almost flat style includes more options than many other free themes.
Bloq uses flat design and flat colors beautifully (and some of the icons even have long shadows).
This flat theme focuses on minimalism and includes a lot of add-ons such as banner ads and custom menus.
MetroBlog uses bright colors and tiling — characteristics of flat design — but also includes gradient color boxes, which make this blog theme almost flat.
One of the better free e-commerce options available Viper has big, bold boxes for text and clear navigation.
While this theme has some characteristics of flat design, the style is more almost flat (note the icons in particular).
A flexible blog theme with options for color and header styles.
This free theme is anything but simple with nice shapes, almost flat icons and vibrant color and typography.
Tetris uses simple block-styles and cards for a simple site design. The look is great for sites with great images or visuals.
Argo uses tiling and a simple structure that can work for both portfolios or business sites. The WordPress theme features clean lines and simple menu items featuring flat components. It comes in three color options — green, orange and blue — featuring a monotone palette.
Business Essentials ($45)
This simple, yet classic theme is perfectly flat and works great for a business that is on top of trends. The modern style is simple and comes with all the essentials for a business site, including company profile pages, social icons and printable and PDF download functionality.
This theme is designed for portfolios and display. The theme uses sharp boxes and bright color representative of flat design for a modern look. One of the cool features of this theme is custom color palette generation based on portfolio options. The theme is fully responsive and includes a long list of available options.
Modern Metro ($40)
For sites running on WordPress, Modern Metro is the theme that matches Metro UI. The layout features live tiles which can be moved and customized. The theme is responsive and comes with the ability to customize the color palette, a variety of matching charts and a set of 1,368 flat icons.
Shift is a modern, high-color theme with a ton of customization tools. Colors, typefaces and widgets are customizable (PSD formats are included). The flat styled design is sharp with pixel-perfect styling and comes retina-ready and is responsive.
Salmon & Cream ($75)
This theme is one of the sharpest out there. It’s highly customizable and the responsive design is retina-ready. The built-in color palettes are wonderfully flat, using the title salmon, blue or your choice of hue.
This fully-responsive theme is designed for portfolio-style sites and uses high color. The purely flat theme also uses a distinct font palette with a great look and feel in the default settings.
This theme packs a lot of punch with a variety of layout options, background colors and a set of 361 retina-ready icons. In addition, the theme includes an easy shortcode generator and is built using Bootstrap.
Color makes this flat theme stand out. It’s simple, modern, responsive and includes multiple widgets. The monotone scheme of flat colors is a nice touch and it’s one of a few purely single color themes out there.
Part of what appeals to some people about the flat style is the use of creative illustrations and icons. That’s where Bonbon comes in. It uses high color and a fun style in a retina-ready responsive theme. It even comes with a pack of great icon illustrations that can be customized.
Flat looks like what you would expect of a basic flat design minus one feature. The high color palette uses muted tones rather than some of the bright hues that are characteristic of flat design.
Frequent posters will like news, a simple theme that uses photo and text cards to index lots of content. The style is simple and flat with bright colors and simple icons.
Coffee & Cream ($40)
This single-page theme includes a number of options and two navigation options. It’s fully responsive and uses the flat design trend perfectly.
Flat Admin ($18)
There are plenty of forms, tables, custom pages and element integration in this flat theme designed for businesses. The responsive design is fully customizable and the download comes with free feature updates and support.
A high-powered single-page theme that uses multiple and different screens that encourage scrolling. The theme is customizable and includes social media functionality and a contact form. This theme has many flat characteristics, but would be classified as almost flat.
This theme is almost the opposite of its name, with a simple and modern interface.
With a variety of post formats, this theme is a great tool for showcasing a product or design. The theme features large image frames, simple and bold text.
Jobify is a theme made just for creating jobs, using the trendy look of flat design. The powerful, responsive theme uses simple typography, color and grids and integrates with other jobs toolkits.
MetroFolio uses the metro, card-style layout that has become linked to flat design. The simple theme has an easy-to-use interface, is customizable and is made for portfolios.
FlatPack includes multiple templates and options for businesses wanting to consider a site designed in the flat style.
This theme does a nice job of using color blocks in the flat and almost flat style. It has plenty of options and the real-time preview is nice.
Flat Portfolio ($35)
What’s great about Flat Portfolio is that it is designed to display your portfolio in a retina-ready environment. The customizable theme is also responsive and includes unlimited colors and use of Google Fonts.
This is the theme for designers or developers who want extra control because it has plenty of advanced admin options with HTML5, CSS3 and is fully responsive. Hypertext is also fully customizable in terms of color, page type and language.
Because Fuse is designed with creative professionals in mind, it is slick and focuses on images, while using simple and beautiful flat-styling details.
The color cast look for images that some sites are using with flat design schemes is part of what you will find with Mineral. The theme includes a flexible AJAX gallery, responsive design and lots of skins.
Ink combines great use of image frames with the colors and style of flat design. Hover animation works nicely and the theme allows you to group images as a slideshow.
Amada is a theme that embodies the minimalistic ideals of flat design with simple colors and lines. The theme also uses simple typography with clean lines. It is responsive and retina-ready and has exceptional scrolling effects.
If icons are your thing, Glider is the theme for you. The pack comes with 960 vector icons, is retina-ready and supports a blog. The theme supports multiple languages as well.
This almost flat theme is the backbone for a great minimalistic site and has a very professional look and feel. The design is responsive and include multiple layout options, including blogs.
If you are looking to tiptoe into flat design and like parallax scrolling, Emerald is for you. The almost flat theme is simple and includes impressive scroll effects and an unlimited color palette.
Kumaon is a theme built for business with tools for great testimonials and calls to action. The theme also includes 300 flat icons and multiple forms.
For a simple, flat theme, Anubis is packed with features and includes spectacular typography and color right out of the box. The theme is responsive, includes a variety of options and customization and multiple page templates.
Red Star ($45)
This is one of the few themes that allows you to turn on/off responsiveness. The theme focuses on clean, simple typography and includes nice template pages.
Forest looks great and has solid code to back it up. The theme works with widget-style boxes making moving items easy.
Panes, by default, uses two very popular flat design colors – teal and bright purple. The one-page design is setup for plug and play, includes Google maps integration and allows for custom colors and fonts. The card-style scroll effect is pretty nifty, too.
Nova is a great example of how to use novelty typefaces in flat design. All of the elements in this theme are created using bright colors, simple lines and a minimalistic backbone. The retina-ready theme is Bootsrap based and has a variety of customization options – with each of the primary colors pulled straight from a flat design basics palette.
Red Sky ($40)
Red Sky is one of those themes that does not look like a theme. The highly visual layout is responsive and works with high color and large images. The one-page theme comes in three styles; all are based in flat design.
As a photography theme, where you most see hints of flat design in Lambo is in typography and accent color choices. Simple font choices with bold colors emphasize the flat feeling. With a textured background though, the overall concept is almost flat.
This theme is designed for blogging and writing. The super-simple theme has an adaptive layout, clean, minimalist feel and features lean code. It does not include any real bells and whistles.
This grid-style theme uses great blocks of color and open space to showcase images. The theme is super clean, responsive and includes multiple page templates.
The FlatCo theme is one of the most packed when it comes to post format and type. The theme also includes more than 300 flat-styled icons and multiple chart and graph elements, making this a complete kit for a variety of projects.
This one-page theme is simple and beautiful in the true nature of the flat style. Icons and shapes are basic and can be color customized. The theme include simple animations that add a more almost flat feel on hover actions.
Octavus uses flat design in a way that looks and feels trendy without being “too trendy.” The mix of images and colored blocks combine for an easy user experience in this responsive and retina-ready theme.
Flat design templates are beginning to hit the design market as well, even the most inexperienced web designers can put together a simple site using the trend.
Hosting template (free)
This template will require some work on your part, but it includes the framework for a basic website design in the flat style. It uses on-trend elements and colors and comes as a downloadable PSD, so you will need some backend experience to convert this design to a live site.
iPhone flat design UI template (free)
With a variety of simple iPhone templates using a flat design scheme for app design, this site delivers five styles of downloadables: logins, user profiles, activity feed, settings and sidebar design. The downloadable templates come with everything you need to get started and allow for full customization of each design.
Delta flat mobile template ($8)
While many designers are opting for responsive sites, Delta is a mobile-only template in the flat style. It includes many of the add-ons of bigger templates in for the small screen. The flat style used is super-simple and uses a monotone color palette.
Flappster flat landing page template ($20)
This landing page design is made for promoting an upcoming site or application. Based in Twitter Bootstrap, the landing page template uses a parallax panel scrolling and a bright flat theme with plenty of call to action buttons. The template comes with a variety of flat buttons and icons, which are all fully customizable in the associated PSD files. The template also uses a set of flat illustrations which are included.
iLevel Bootstrap template ($15)
This template for a responsive website features flat design and long shadows for a super-trendy theme. The framework is based on Twitter Bootstrap and comes with 30 pages and four available color palettes. The template also includes a handful of flat icons, illustrations and media stream plugins.
iOS7 app icon template ($4)
Any designer or developer with an app for sale in the Apple iTunes store is probably aware to the impending Apple iOS 7 design change. This icon kit can help you create a quick icon using the new style, which can be considered almost flat. Icons are retina-ready and the pack includes icon formats for iTunes, iPad, iPhone, Spotlight and Settings, plus a uniform icon grid.
Color is an important part of any flat design project. Color is often used in one of three distinct ways when it comes to flat design: bold and bright, as a monotone scheme or in multicolored panels. Flat design often uses combinations of three, four, five or more vivid color choices to create a palette, rather than the standard of only one or two dominant colors for most projects.
Bold and bright color is a way to create an element of fun in the design process. For the best results, stick to a certain color theme when selecting bold color, look for colors that have a similar saturation, tint or shading, or are from complementary positions on the color wheel. Bold color should look intentional.
Monotone color schemes are popular when it comes to flat design as well. The color palette often beings with a vibrant hue, such as emerald or peach, and uses both tints (the addition of white) and tones (the addition of black) to create contrast and variety.
Multicolored panels are another common option. Rather than mixing and matching colors throughout the design, each scrolled page or panel uses a different and singular color with black and white. The overall effect can be visually appealing and helps create a sense of organization and visual hierarchy.
Flat design color palette (free)
Grab the HTML and CSS for flat-style colors with pre-made code from Lucas Cobb. HTML and CSS is written and ready-to-use for 20 colors commonly used in flat design. Match each color to the named chart, grab the code and add to your site. The hues are the same as those highlighted by Flat UI colors.
Flat UI colors (free)
Flat UI colors is a simple site that showcases the most popular hues in flat design. Flat UI Colors highlights 20 of these popular colors and allows users to get corresponding RGB or HEX values for each color with just a click. Select the color format, click on the color, and the values are saved to your clipboard.
Adobe Kuler (free)
Users of Adobe’s Kuler color palette generation tool have created a variety of striking combinations using colors representative of flat design. From brights to more muted retro shades, there are great palettes for inspiration available. With a click, each palette is editable and downloadable. Make sure to check out “Flat Color Set 4,” “Icon with Flat colors 5,” “Logo Lockups 2,” “FLAT COLORS Ui Bright,” and “Cool Tone Flat.”
ColourLovers users have created thousands of color combinations using flat color concepts. This list is sorted by user rating and is a place to generate inspiration if you don’t want to use the “same old flat colors.” Make sure to check out “the world is flat,” “satin ballet flats,” new york flat,” “flat,” and “flat earth therapy.” Click on any palette for color names and RBG and HEX values.
Clean typography is an important part of the flat design trend.
Because flat design includes a focus on simplicity, type choices should be clean and simple as well. Most commonly, designers are opting for a simple sans-serif typeface and are using one or two weights. Some are branching out a little further and using one sans-serif and one novelty or speciality typeface. The trend, though, is characterize by a very limited number of typefaces per project, typically no more than two.
The best typefaces for use in flat design projects, create a distinct sense of contrast in conjunction with the background.
Type is often black or white, lacking additional embellishment or color. (Quite a few of the selected typefaces below are even advertised using this style and flat design concepts.)
In addition to basic typefaces, the words used should also be kept to a minimum. Language should also be simple and easy to read to stay on point within the minimal style of flat design.
Finally, make sure to give type plenty of room to breathe in flat design projects. This includes both space around the words themselves and letter spacing, which may be exaggerated somewhat for display type. If you opt for a thinner typeface, consider going oversized with it. Fonts with thin strokes, such as Helvetica Neue, might not create enough contrast to be clearly readable at smaller sizes or against certain backgrounds.
A sans-serif typeface that’s masquerading as a novelty font with small serifs, Bellota is easy to read and ornamental, a tough combination to find. It has a feminine feel and would work well against a high-contrast background.
Caviar Dreams (free)
This super-round typeface is both modern and simple. The letters are distinct and are readable at a variety of sizes. The stroke though is rather thin and requires a background with a lot of contrast for optimum readability.
Flex Display (free)
Apple stirred quite a debate in the design community about the use of an uber-thin typeface in its upcoming iOS 7 release (a decision that has been backtracked somewhat). But a thin typeface can work in certain situations. Flex Display includes a very thin stroke and has practical application as a large or oversized typeface in a high contrast situation.
Lato is a simple typeface that works well at a variety of sizes and includes weights from ultra light to ultra bold. The typeface is quite popular among designers working on flat design projects. This is not the typeface to select if you want your type to look different from the mainstream.
Another all caps typeface, with a wide stroke that works well with plenty of space. The look is modern with a wide stance and sharp edges.
Proxima Nova (from $29)
Fonts from the Proxima Nova family offer plenty of options and are quite popular among designers. The simple and elegant style of the sans-serif typeface makes it easy to use and pair with other styles. The simple geometric style is consistent with the feel of flat design.
FF DIN (from $78 approx.)
Simple, plain and geometric, DIN was constructed by the German standards institute for use on road signs — the very definition of flat and simple. Its popularity lead to FF DIN a highly successful digital version.
Geometric simplicity and a rounded almost light-hearted feeling, make Monserrat a great choice for flat design.
Primary Sans (free)
Flat design excels at simplicity and this great rounded typeface is simplicity itself.
The core characteristic of flat design is the lack of complexity. When it comes to typefaces, that means geometric construction, like Dense.
Riona Sans (from $25)
If you’re looking for a slightly more serious typeface for business use, but still want a flat aesthetic, then look no further than Riona Sans.
Bariol is another friendly face with very rounded terminals. A much better option that Arial Rounded, its geometry feels not unlike a stencil.
Canter (free on request)
Connected perhaps to the ice-cream colors that unite flat design with modernism, modernist styles also creep into typefaces; Canter, with its top-heavy proportions is a prime example.
Deco Neue (free)
Another tribute to modernism, Deco Neue should probably be named Neue Deco, but let’s not hold that against it. It’s a great choice for striking display text.
Niveau (from $40)
Again, geometric simplicity is a great choice for a flat, even tone. Niveau provides an excellent example.
While flat design is more of a style than learned tool, designers can familiarize themselves with some of the tricks and techniques commonly used.
Video tutorials can be one of the easiest ways to learn something new. For the best results, choose a video that is on par with your knowledge level when it comes to software used and speed of the lesson.
Flat design video tutorial (free)
This 17-plus minute video from Designmodo takes you through the steps to create a simple website in the flat design style using Adobe Photoshop.
The video covers how to place elements, create a color palette and some of Designmodo’s top font choices. It also takes you though working on a grid and how to use a user interface kit in the design process.
(The video instructor uses parts from two Designmodo kits, Flat UI and Flat UI Pro, which we mentioned above.) The instructions are simple and easy to follow but you need to be comfortable with Adobe software to get the most from this video tutorial.
Flat web design video tutorial (free)
This video by 1st Web Designer takes you through building a portfolio landing page in the flat style in an almost hour-long video designed for beginners.
The tutorial walks you through using tools in Photoshop to create a basic landing page on a grid and using parts from UI kits.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow and the video moves at a pace that is good for those who may not have a lot of Photoshop experience.
How to create a long shadow (free)
This simple tutorial requires basic knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and takes you through the step-by-step process of creating a long shadow using either the pathfinder tool or blend option. With either method, you can create an icon with a long shadow in a matter of minutes.
Make my design flat (free)
Self-promoted as “the simplest flat design tutorial on the web” Make My Design Flat, provides simple before and after code that converts buttons into the flat style.
The site provides a visual example and shows the code for each type of button. You can copy the code or use it to help configure your own.
Zach Swinehart’s flat design tutorials (free)
In this two-part video series on flat design, video web tools trainer Zach Swinehart explains flat design concepts, gives you a few tips for using it, and showcases a few examples.
In part 2, he walks you through creating a simple flat website in Photoshop, including techniques for creating contrast, color blocks and type.
Flat design articles
There’s been some fascinating discussion on flat design across the web. If you truly want to understand the genre and how can best be applied check out these great articles.
The Flat Design Era
Flat Design: Trend or Revolution?
What is flat design?
Principles of Flat Design
Basic Principles of Flat Design – And Resources to Get You Started!
Get Pumped Up Over Flat Design
Flat Design: An In-Depth Look
A Look at Flat Design and Why It’s Significant
How to Nail the Coveted Flat Design Look (9 Actionable Tips)
Flat design inspiration
All this talk of flat design wouldn’t be complete without a gallery for inspiration.
With new projects using flat design being published every day, there’s no way to keep up with every new site, UI pack or project, but these resources are cataloging some of the best with frequent updates.
Awwwards flat design gallery
Behance flat design gallery
Dribbble flat design gallery
Flat design gallery
Flat UI Design
Flat trendz gallery
It’s easier than you think to get started with flat design techniques especially considering all the tools and resources readily available. But you should act quickly because trends can fade just as quickly as they start.
Flat design quickly developed from a designer trend to a mainstream technique, being used by large websites such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. If it can work for sites of that magnitude, it can work for a variety of projects. But it may not be for everything, remember when starting a new project to let the content and message of the site help dictate the design. Flat often communicates simplicity; keep that in mind.
Have you designed a flat project? What resources did you find more useful? Let us know in the comments.