Lines and Circles and Squares… Oh My!

In this blog post I will be looking at some recent trends in digital design.

Last year, a surprising number of big online brands opted for a new logo, Microsoft, ebay and Twitter among them. What the new designs had in common was a penchant for sensible, uniform lettering and/or graphics.

Twitter went so far as to publish very strict guidelines on the use of its assets, warning users not to ‘flip the bird’. Creative bloggers quickly rounded on these brands for ‘growing up’, banishing quirkiness (the jumbled eBay font; the quiffed bird) and embracing corporate norms.

In contrast, earlier this year, ITV surprised critics by unveiling a stylish new logo, all lowercase curves and adaptive colours. The new design received quite different reviews to ebay/Twitter, as (jealous) creative directors brushed it off as ‘childish’ and likely to ‘look dated quickly’ (personally, I think the logo looks fresh and modern without being conspicuously cutting edge).

As ITV realised, lowercase is very much flavour of the month, particularly online: ever noticed how facebook, ebay, flickr, bing and amazon love small letters? One suggestion is that brands that exist exclusively in the digital sphere see themselves as part of a cool alternative world where normal grammar rules don’t apply. I’ve also been noticing offline brands rejecting caps, presumably to channel the same contemporary image.

This is why, against a backdrop of lowercase curves, the recently unveiled Windows 8 operating system is pretty radical. Users are welcomed by a brightly coloured graphic interface comprised of moveable tiles, where you can ‘pin’ your frequently used applications. You might argue that it looks too ‘busy’ and might be baffling to newbies, but it’s hard to see how Windows could have carried on churning out Start Menus while nemesis Apple stormed ahead with innovation after innovation.

I predict that curves and lowercase have had their moment. Windows 8 is the start of a trend for straight lines and block graphics. Watch this space!