In this series of articles we’ll be commenting on a number of topics, all related to the current state of web design; from design styles to new tech and anything in-between.
"Return of the crack; texture makes a comeback"
Over the last few years we’ve seen many trends in web design come and go, some for good but many that should be locked away in the internet vaults never to be seen again. Today we are paying homage to textures, a style of design that once dominated the web galleries but in the age of optimisation and performance, has taken a back seat to clean and minimal.
Rewind back to the early days of Green Chameleon (circa 2011) and one of our first web builds; a site called ‘The Cellarhand’. The idea of the project was to connect cellar-hands across the world, from the get go we were inspired by photos of old wooden wine barrels and travel maps etc. This style fed straight into the design of the website and we definitely didn’t hold back – seriously we had wooden plank backgrounds and rustic paper textures all over the place.
As time went on and our experience building websites developed, our processes and design decisions were constantly being refined. Standards in the web industry changed and it quickly became apparent that optimisation and performance was something that simply couldn’t be overlooked in exchange for a site that was visually impressive. With this in mind our design decisions were heavily impacted by the challenge of creating something that looks incredible but doesn’t take an age to load; enter the ‘flat design’ trend. For better or worse it took the web by storm, led by big businesses like Apple, whose iOS and web designs generally do seem to set the tone in the land of start ups and tech companies. It’s hard to say if this was simply a design trend or a result of needing to optimise as much as possible i.e the nature of flat design is that it’s very efficient to code and doesn’t use many images.
The reason I wanted to highlight a project of ours from the dark ages is to bring light to the fact that we are seeing a come-back in textured web design, you only have to spend 5 minutes on the FWA or Awwwards to notice a lot of the sites are utilising textures to accentuate the design, be it paint brush marks, paper textures or simple grain and noise. I believe this resurgence of an old forgotten style is largely due to optimisation in the other aspects of building a website; essentially we’ve reached a point where the projects we build are so much more performant that we once again have a bit more freedom from a design perspective and aren’t quite so constrained by load times.
Although the use of texture isn’t going to be appropriate for every brand, there are many scenarios where it can massively help to create a unique website that truly reflects the values of a brand or product. For example, we’re currently working on the new website for Bramley & Gage, a local artisan spirits brand. I’ve no doubt that the site we put together will make use of textures to mirror the craft feel of the bottle labels and overall traditional values of the business. In my opinion the decision to use texture or keep things clean in web design is much like the choice of stock on a print job or grading of a video production; it’s an overarching style choice that can really help to convey the positioning of a brand from the first time you lay eyes on it.
To summarise I thought it would be a good idea to showcase a few of my favourite textured designs out in the wild; long live texture!