Great take…we’ve definitely reached a point where new ideas in design need to take shape. You can take almost any business site today and remove the logo and have no idea what company it is — every site looks the same. I think there are many reasons for this though, not one single factor although they are all related:
- Mobile design: the rise of mobile was fresh and new and the apps designed for them opened new design options that quickly spread to web sites. When it comes to mobile there are only two dominant players which leads us to…
- Apple and Google: Apple changed the way companies thought about design. Everyone wanted to copy Apple. We’ve all spent the last 10 years in design meetings where someone feels the need to bring up the Apple web site to show how they want a “clean design” and “simple UI”. Thank you Apple for making it easier for designers to push good design practices but enough already with the Apple examples. We get it. Google recently joined the fray with Material design and now everyone is tripping over each other to copy their flat design principles. Flat design will start to morph into the next “must have” design “best practice” and we’ll all follow suit.
- Responsive design: With the rise of mobile comes responsive design. As much as responsive design has helped with the write once, publish everywhere principle it currently restricts creativity. I think this is a big factor in what Jon Gold is referring to. Responsive design is still in its infancy. There are limited frameworks to work within and everything needs to flow nicely regardless of screen resolution. Long gone are the days where you had the freedom to layout your content any way you liked as long as it was 960px wide (of course even then we had the standard 3 column layout: left navigation, followed by content, followed by a column of crap we wanted people to click on. This eventually morphed into the 2 column blog layout). I think the restrictions we’re working within for responsive design are temporary. As the frameworks evolve so will the design opportunities.
Finally, something has evolved with designers in general. It use to be that you could always tell a designer because they wanted to be different. They stood out from your typical corporate worker. Today, you can tell a designer because they’re wearing the fully accepted designer uniform — no longer trying to be different but instead trying to fit some accepted lifestyle.
I’m not sure where the diversity went. Maybe part of it is due to the rise in importance of design in business today. Companies now appreciate good design more than ever but with that has come the safe corporate approach. Companies love to copy other companies because they believe that Company X and Company Y know what they’re doing. The reality is that more often than not Company X and Company Y just copied what some other company was doing. In the end, everyone is playing it safe and we end up where we are today.
The good news is the bar has hit an all time low. There is no better time than now to break the mold, take risks, and standout from everyone else.