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East Meets West on Flat Design: Convergence and Divergence in Chinese and American User Interface Design

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Purpose: This study is designed to examine two design approaches: skeuomorphism and flat design, in both American and Chinese contexts. Questions explored include, What underlines this new design trend in American vs. Chinese cultures? How has this new design emerged? How will it evolve in the future? What culturally, underwritten aesthetic and rhetorical principles are at play?

Method: Samples of user interface (UI) design are collected from both cultures and examined to compare similarities and differences wherever possible. In-depth textual analysis is used to deconstruct particular design cases.

Results: Our analysis indicates that while flat design is the new trend, skeuomorphism has its place in UI design; each design has its advantages and shortcomings; and effective design may require the integration of both approaches. Our study also reveals that designs are culturally sensitive and that each particular design is contextualized and rhetorical. Flat design's popularity in the Chinese context has its unique rationale due to social, ideological, cultural, and linguistic reasons.

Conclusion: Savvy designers combine professional taste and culturally sensitive perspectives to produce effective designs that work for their particular contexts.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2016

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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