Less is More: Thoughts on The Black & White Design Trend

You may have noticed that things are getting more and more black and white. I’m not talking about morality, but rather our digital interfaces. Every day it seems that another site or mobile app has updated and stripped out all the color from their world. I’d like to coin the term, “Reverse Pleasantville Effect”.

I take it back, that’s a terrible term.

But, it does accurately convey where we’re headed.

Imagine the girl is your site and the bubblegum is your site’s content.

In the movie “Pleasantville” two kids get sucked into an old black and white TV show and proceed to bring color into the show’s world. Lots of other stuff happens, but that’s the main idea.

In our digital world, big players like Instagram and AirBNB are jumping into their once colorful worlds and sucking all the color out of their designs, until only their content remains.

Left: New UI. Right: Old UI (Photo courtesy ioshackr)

More about this trend can be read about here.

I think this marks one of the best shifts in digital design yet.

Here’s why:

Designers Can Focus on What Matters

As simple as it sounds, having to worry about color palettes and making sure you are implementing them correctly is just one more thing that gets in a designers way when trying to put together a functional user interface. A lot of the time having a pretty looking (ie: colors and making sure they work together well) interface is given more value than having a usable interface.

If designers are freed up more time to focus on usability vs. color schemes, This is a huge win. And hey, even if it is just a few minutes saved not worrying about colors, those minutes can add up and give designers hours more time to spend more wisely.

Content Can Shine

This one is such a no brainer that it’s almost embarrassing it has taken digital design this long to put it together.

We’ve all sat through some type of marketing conference / seminar / meetup where the speaker has smugly stated, “Content is King” with little context and then just moved on. Well, with colorless design, *ahem* Content is King.

Did I do it right? Regardless, view the two Instagram posts from above and it’s easy to see the new, colorless UI design’s content pops more.

If we are going to own the idea that our content is really as important as we say, stripping unnecessary color from our design is a step in the right direction.

Cohesion & Orientation

Imagine driving down the street and all in a line you have a mansion, a mobile home, an old church, a drive in, a modern restaurant and a fast-food restaurant all next door to each other. You wouldn’t know what to think of where you were.

Our digital spaces are often just as much of a disorienting, jumbled mess. Each app or site has a different nav, colors, animations, etc.

I’m not saying that we should give up on any daring or colorful designs (or am I?) but rather that the colors should be used within a context that warrants them. I don’t need colors cluttering a display where I’m trying to quickly scan and analyze data or content presented.

Having a cohesive experience allows us to orient ourselves quickly and assess the information and data we are taking in without the static noise of colors distracting us.


And now I’m going to go and suck the color (but hopefully not the fun) out of some designs.



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