What's the light at the end of the tunnel for Web 2.0 visual styles?

OK, I know there is considerable debate about what constitutes ‘Web 2.0’ - and whether or not this comprises any of the visual styles and motifs, but leaving definitions aside for a moment, here’s what I want to talk about:

-There are certain visual style elements that are very, very common at the moment in web design, notably:
[li]rounded corners[/li][li]glassy buttons, icons and logos[/li][li]stripes[/li][li]rounded fonts[/li][li]lower case text logos (with spaces removed - word breaks indicated by colour change)[/li][li]Reflections[/li][li]That bloody star[/li][li]Wii-style homunculi that look like Lego people (can’t find a definitive example, sorry)[/li][/ul]
-As well as a particular, but hard to describe use of white space, and probably a load of other things I can’t think of right now.

Once again, I know there’s lots of debate about whether these things are part of ‘Web 2.0’ - but for the purposes of this thread, I don’t care - we’re talking about the visual stuff here.

So. This visual stuff is all pretty distinctive, and I think that means it will go out of fashion sometime. Question is; what next? Where can it go from here?

What makes those styles work and popular is the clarity of the presentation. It makes things look tidy, organised, and easy to read.

I hope that, whatever direction styles go, they will maintain those aspects, because they are so incredibly important when you’re reading on a screen.

I imagine that the development of video and internet at ipod scale will influence design for a while, so that may be what will happen next, if it hasn’t begun already.

I agree - clarity is really important, it’s just… I dunno… this current wave seems all too reminiscent of the overblown, gaudy visual styles we saw back in the 70s in pop art and other places - it seemed really cool at the time, but dreadfully cheesy in retrospect. I guess people have to do what they have to do with little heed to how the future will scorn something so trivial as their appearance, but still, it feels to me like this big shiny rounded, glossy bubble is going to burst sometime. I’m just curious as to what might emerge afterwards.

I don’t know that those things are really a function of Web 2.0…have you seen Windows XP or Apple lately? In fact, did you see them 5 years ago or so? We bought an icon set for work 2 years ago to use in one of our web apps. It included those “wii people” and glassy buttons. It was called “XP Style” not “Web 2.0 style.”

If you really want to see the future of Web design, check out MySpace where all of the peoples of the intrawebs are allowed to design their own pages, exactly how they want them. I would call this style “kill me now” :slight_smile:

I’m someone who has always been able to tell you what looks stupid as it was occuring in fashion.

So assuming that this will hold true, I’d say that the Web 2.0 look will stay looking good except the most extreme examples of gaudishness. Overall they tend to be really tightly formatted pieces of graphic design. The look will certainly go out of style, but I don’t think you’ll ever look back and think it looks stupid, just antiquated.

Well, yes, I know there’s debate about that - I probably should have mentioned it :wink:

Yeah yeah, you did mention it and I know you did when I wrote that. My bad. Was posting inbetween working instead of the proper way - working inbetween posting :wink:

It’s OK. In any case, whether or not the styles are officially part of Web 2.0 (if indeed there is any authority capable of rightly asserting that anyway) - enough people consider them part of Web 2.0 for it to be understood (nearly all my links self-identify as being about Web 2.0 visual style.

But back to the topic… part of me hopes you’re right that it will still be highly regarded as strong design even if it goes out of fashion, but as I say, I feel there’s a strong echo of the 70s plastic look - and those were bold designs, and they just look hopelessly silly now, or a lot of them do.

I’m tired of it already - but for reasons I can’t really quite put my finger on. I think a lot of it is just the bland homogeneity of it all - a bit like what’s happened to very many town centres in the UK - the ubiquity of franchises and chains means that there’s just no point going anywhere, because it all looks the same.

Homogeous, maybe, but I wouldn’t call it bland. I think it’s a vibrant design style, and has a lot of life in it yet.

Well, maybe just a few less glass buttons.

Don’t forget:

  • diagonal lines (though I guess ‘stripes’ encompasses that)
  • gradiants
  • lime green / bright blue / neon orange

All of which which I’m totally guilty of, at least once. Along with glass buttons aplenty.

Web 2.0 (as design gimmick) is a phase. First it was frames, then iframes and teeny tiny pixel fonts, now this. There is a nice simple elegance to a lot of the Web 2.0 stuff, partuclarly the stressing of white space and legible/flexible font sizes. And of course, use of CSS so as to separate style and presentation from content, although that’s not exactly part of the Web 2.0 design shtick so much as adherence to accessibility standards.

Judging from clients of my own and in requests I’ve seen on various design contest communities, companies are still seeking that Web 2.0 feel. So I guess it’ll be here for a while.

The 70s had two problems that make their designs untenable.

One is using too many colors. You really can’t use more than three colors in a design without it looking like crud, but in the 70s they would pack in the whole rainbow. They were also fond of brown as a neutral color to put in with the rainbow scheme–which doesn’t need further comment.

The other problem was the simple limitations of what one could do with the tools of the time, and then how much of that was transferable to printing or mass production. Essentially they had to do everything by hand with watercolors or airbrush and tape to create the design, which meant a lot of imperfections and faded places. Which was probably then made worse once transferred to the end medium.

Computers have all the tools you could ever need to create nicely rounded shapes, straight lines, smooth color gradations, etc. etc. And once you’ve made it, it’s digital. It isn’t going to look any different at the customer’s end.

No more Letraset! Hurrah!

Other than to say it was a welcome relief from the everpresent avocado green of the 60’s.

It’s rendered bland, for me, by its ubiquity - objectively, the elements may be vibrant, crisp, vivid, or whatever, but I’m just starting to think ‘Oh, that again’ any time I see them. I’m just webtwopointzero-ed out.