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Material vs. Flat Design: How to Choose

Material vs. Flat Design: How to Choose


Once again, we gather here today to negotiate the topic of the design, the eternal question that is never outtalked about. And the aspect that we are touching today is material and flat design languages.

An ordinary user might not even realise that there is such a division of design languages. But worry not, after reading this you will become more aware of design details and probably a step closer to the great and mysterious design industry. Waste no time, let’s go.

First of all, the names speak for themselves - ‘flat’ design is 2D, and ‘material’ one is 3D, if you will. Pardon me such a harsh association, and read on to get a more exact explanation on what each of those design languages are, where they are used, and which one you should choose for your startup.
Material vs Flat Design

Material Design

As near to real world objects as it was possible at the moment, material design was a path-breaker in that case. Right now it might quite fairly seem too much or trying too hard to show all your skills by adding drop-shadows and animations, but the material design was actually created that way to ease users’ migration from the real world to the web. Following the skeuomorphism principle, material design replicates real world objects and tries to blend them in.

This approach was used when introducing users to the web world because it was an easier, less stressful transition from the real-life things.

Do you have a question?

Nowadays skeuomorphism is very subtle and it might even seem flat to some of us, but it still has got the multidimension that makes it more intuitive.

Material design language was created by Google and of course it has guidelines one has go to stick to.

Let’s see some of the strong and weak sies of the material design:


  • intuitive and familiar
  • skeuomorphic elements seem more ‘real’
  • uses animation which is rather entertaining and attention-grasping


  • harder to implement and make any changes
  • takes longer to download the page
  • strict borderlines that may constrain some of your ideas

Material Design
Flat Design

Flat design is simple and minimalistic. It denies all these bougy and overrealistic elements, and chooses to be strict and classy. It has got little to no multidimension in it, the main focus is on colours, shapes and fonts, the onscreen objects seem to be lying on a flat surface. ‘Less is more’, my dear friends.

Material design might have necessary when introducing audience to smart technology, but I would dare to say that contemporary users are fully accustomed to computers, smartphones and whatever devices being an inherent part of their daily lives. We don’t need it imitating real life, we expect it to be sleek, simple and satisfying to look at.

The absence of heavy design elements such as animations and layers noticeably cuts off on the loading time. Flat design is much more responsive to changes and easy to modify.

The first steps of creating flat design have been made by Microsoft when creating Metro.

It has been properly introduced with Windows 8 in 2012 and iOS 7 in 2013, and after some client disapproval the updates have been made and the road went uphill. Apple iOS 7 and higher are basically siblime of flat design. They are interactive, properly working and so aesthetically pleasing, which is the ultimate goal of flat design.
Apple iOS 6 vs iOS 7

Let’s sum up some of the core advantages and disadventages of the flat design:


  • loading time for the page is reduced significantly
  • suits a ton of different screen resolutions
  • is easy to edit
  • minimalistic images are easy for everyone to understand and users aren’t being distracted by the overpowering presentation that takes away from the content


  • isn’t as intuitive
  • can still be confusing - it might be hard to tell which objects are clickable and which aren’t

Do you have a question?

There are no protagonist and antagonist in this article. Both material and flat design languages are great for different purposes. For example, material design is oh so widely used in computer games when it is an important part of the whole vibe, and flat design is popular with mobile applications that don’t need to be too realistic.

We hope you found all the answers you needed. If you have any questions left, feel free to contact us. Thunderrise Dev Teem is at your service.