Why Neumorphism Is 2020’s Most Influential Design Trend

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Everyone loves a new design trend. But when it comes to all things new and shiny, neumorphism really does take the biscuit. Not least, because its rise has been sudden, and people are raving about it. Often these trends are given room to grow and breathe, but with neumorphism, it’s suddenly here, in the virtual space, and it’s making everyone turn and stare.

Put it this way, Apple seems to be moving away from other design types (more on those in a moment) to neumorphism. And if Apple is doing it, you can bet a whole raft of tech companies are about to follow suit. So, what is this potentially huge trend all about? What are its roots, and where does its potential take us? Read on to find out.

Skeuomorphism vs. neumorphism

It used to be all about skeuomorphism. Now it’s more about neumorphism. And what on earth does this mean in design terms? Skeuomorphism is an interface design that mimics real-life. A common example being the recycle bin on your desktop.

Basically, they are used to build a sense of familiarity for the user. It’s more comfortable and intuitive to use something if it mimics real life, whether that’s moving rubbish to a bin, pushing a button, pulling a door handle. It aligns itself with our entrenched ideas of the physical world. So, despite neumorphism being a loud new kid on the block, you’ll still be interacting with skeuomorphic designs daily.

What Apple and other early adopters are now doing, is embracing more flat, minimal designs. They are neumorphic. But when we say “flat”, we don’t mean the actual flat designs of old. This is something entirely new, which bridges the gap between that and our trusty skeuomorphic.

Neumorphism: the best of both worlds

Adopting a flat design isn’t a new thing. It’s been used widely in apps and interface design for some time. But neumorphism isn’t the same. It combines both flat and skeuomorphic designs to create a clean, solid look. This is all achieved through the right shading and highlighting.

So, rather than trying to imitate lifelike objects and tools, it falls somewhere in the middle. The things you see on screen are lifelike enough to make sense on an intuitive level, but their look and feel remain firmly in the virtual world. The question is, is this enough to make it a design trend that’ll be picked up and used widely. Just talking about it isn’t the same as seeing it in action in the mainstream.

The design bit

One of the reasons behind the neumorphism hype is down to its simplicity. Ultimately, as  UX Planet points out, it’s all about the colour scheme. Colour might be too strong a word here, because if we said “muted”, that’s probably about as close to a good description as you’re going to get.

If you fancy a closer look at what neumorphism looks like, here are a few major pointers:

  • Colours – they are minimal, consistent and aligned. Often, as UX Planet explains, the designer will opt for light shadows, mid colours for the main background, and dark for the shadow. This gives is a clean aesthetic.
  • Shadows – The whole design is centred around shadow as well as light, so blending the top and bottom colours on the palette, that is light and dark, to create contrast is the secret. And if you’re not a designer yourself, this is the bit where you could come unstuck. It’s a fiddly process to perfect.

The other thing to make clear here is that neumorphism doesn’t have to be the sole route in a design. It can be blended with other design techniques. And why would we say that? Well, because like any design trend, there are pros and cons.

The good and the bad

Already there is some kickback to this trend. Critics have panned its accessibility for a start. A simple example is this: make a button the neumorphic way and it might not stand out. There isn’t enough contrast to make it “pop”. There are also coding issues around it. Ultimately, the combined hurdles of accessibility and coding could spell trouble for widespread adoption.

On the plus side, as of now, it looks and feels like a breath of fresh air. It does combine two effective design trends to make something new. And it’s adaptable enough to be mixed with other design techniques, giving apps a clean, consistent feel. By being aware of its limitations, rather than feeling hampered by them, it could welcome a new dawn of delightful designs on a worldwide scale.

In conclusion …

It’s always good to take hyped design trends with a pinch of salt. Even if they look like they’re set to shake up the status quo, the viability of every trend is something that reveals itself over time.

It’s still early days for neumorphism. It’s lauded as a big thing, and in our humble opinion, it has the potential to just that, for as long as any design trend can be anyway. It’s also giving designers a fresh way to enhance apps for the better. Its adaptability along with the features it borrows from different, popular trends make it an enticing proposition. In the long run, it’ll be more about how designers use it, how it’s blended with other design trends, and which big hitters pick it up and run with it. But we will say this: it already feels like 2020 will be an interesting year for neumorphism.