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The Flat Sink (sachagreif.com)
260 points by sgdesign 1551 days ago | hide | past | web | 148 comments | favorite

I stayed with a friend in a then-new building designed by Philippe Starck, in New York.

The bathroom sink faucet handles were very cool -- just smooth steel cylinders sticking out, that you rotated.

Until I tried turning them with my now-soapy hands... and discovered that they were impossible to turn, because there was nothing to grab onto! His stylish cylinders turned out to be completely useless. Turns out knobby handles exist for a reason.

Still, someone will eventually call this a feature, because it might force you to dry your hands before turning the knob - keeping it cleaner/dry.

Designers will always find a way to justify their crap.

The correct solution: foot pedals, as used in hospitals. Avoids contact-spread infections.

The correct comeback to that would be to assert that such a demand is unnecessarily environmentally unfriendly since it encourages a usage that wastes more water. Green is very stylish, arguably more stylish than standard aesthetics.

The correct comeback is to dry your hands on the designer's clothing and then use turn the knobs with your now dry hands ;-)

It actually seems like a correct justification. It's greener, and forces a more logical way to use a product, even if it isn't familiar. That isn't a sin.

Really? Where are these designers you mention? Can you point to any specific example of them justifying similar crap?

(And note that it has to be an actual "crap", not just stuff you personally don't like).

I noticed the same kind of faucets at my friend's place in SF's Mint Plaza (probably one of the most expensive condos in the city). It blew my mind how hard to use they were, even without soap, with just wet hands.

Overall I think that modern design has had a negative impact on kitchen and bathroom utilities: much of the functionality is lost with minimalistic design. There's also quite a lot of difference between countries and most bathroom faucets etc I have encountered in the US are horrible to use. It's also surprising why infrared activated faucets aren't more popular, they can't be that much more expensive for public restrooms (they are everywhere in the Nordics). I could go on forever about this subject as it's such an everyday thing affecting millions of people.

I am not a fan of infrared faucets - it completely strips away control from the user.

You can't dictate the amount of water - whether you want a trickle or a gush of water. You can't dictate if you just want to leave it on (for whatever reason) unless you leave your hands in that magical spot. O the magical spot, waving around your hands around the sink, feeling like a total idiot (not to mention learning the magical spot of different infrared faucets, since I'm seeing them in public restrooms and airports now), and if your hand leaves the beam for just a millisecond, the water shuts off, then you wave your soap covered hands around feeling like a bigger idiot.

Infrared is way too niche and 1 settings only.

I feel your pain on bathroom faucets, I have a fantastic one-grip faucet that I can operate even with my elbow if I so wish. When things like that exist, why oh WHY would anyone buy two-grip faucets, or worse, BAD two-grip faucets?

Another point of horror is trends in design that cause some feature to just not exist anymore. Ten years ago I bought a combined microwave/kitchen fan, that had a great digital wheel for setting the time. It had the right size, and weight and feel, and it was really easy to set the timer because you developed muscle-memory really fast.

But a few years ago I moved, and had to buy a new microwave, and since a few years had passed, digital wheel were now "out" and almost impossible to find ovens that had them. Because suddenly the shitty +/- buttons where "in" again, and I was just out of luck.

Agreed. Even an analogue mechanical timer wheel is better than many of the digital designs.

I think the sad fact is that anything that adds mechanical parts also adds cost, and is therefore avoided now that the cost of electronics has dropped.

We have an infrared-activated faucet in our Japanese kitchen sink and it's really great!

I never understood why people put soap on their hands before turning the water on. Why do you do this? Am I missing something here?

You can use liquid soap. And for dry soap I tend to just open the water a couple of seconds, close it, soap my hands and then wash it away again.

There's really no need to let the water run all the time, that's a waste.

If your goal is to actually clean your hands, then it's not a waste. Proper hand-washing requires not touching anything dirty after you've cleaned up. And how did you turn the faucet on? With your dirty hands. So, wash, dry with a paper towel, turn faucet off with paper towel.

By your logic then as soon as you get out of the bathroom and touch anything, then your hands aren't clean anymore. So what was the point in cleaning them?

Being too much of a maniac with such thing is no good. Especially not for your kids: an environment that is too clean will prevent them from developing proper defenses and as soon as they'll be outside, they'll get sick like sissies all the time :-/

Few things you touch outside the bathroom will be as dirty as the sink faucet. But even so, I don't always wash my hands this way. I do in sensitive situations, though -- at the office where someone's always sick, when I'm preparing food, or when wounds / orifices are involved.

That's why I prefaced with "If your goal is to get clean." Sometimes it's just to satisfy a taboo. That's okay.

Compared to something like a keyboard, I'd say the bathroom handles are the least of your worries


The aforementioned approach is recommended to avoid spreading flu virus, and other winter time bugs.

If you want to avoid your kids getting sick, I can recommend getting them a flu vaccine. Probably safer than relying on a faucet containing the exact amount of virus you need to develop antibodies.

>The aforementioned approach is recommended to avoid spreading flu virus, and other winter time bugs.

Citation needed.

I've never met the "do not touch anything dirty after you washed your hands" and "close the faucet with a paper towel" (!) as a recommendation against spreading flu virus.

Especially if by "dirty thing" you mean the faucet handle.

I don't have a link but I do have a bit of (dated) experience that may be relevant.

Back a while ago I worked to pay for college. One of the several jobs I held was as CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). Before they let you do the job there was a class you had to complete and one of the skills that you got tested on was washing your hands. Because, the first thing you did upon entering a room was to wash your hands and the last thing you did before leaving it was to wash your hands.

The process was as follows: set paper towel dispenser with 8-8 inches of paper towel so it is ready. turn on water to very hot. Wet hands and apply soap. Work soap into a lather for at least a minute and pay attention to make sure all surface areas of the hands and wrists are thoroughly scrubbed. Rinse under the hot water and tear off the paper towel. Use the paper towel to grab and dispense more paper towels for drying the hands. Once hands are dry, use the paper towels to turn off the faucet.

The keys to washing hands well seem to be related to water temperature and the length and vigorousness that is applied to the scrubbing. Once hands are in a 'clean' state the key to keeping them clean is to avoid contact with anything 'dirty'. I don't have a citation but if you really want something related to the measured effectiveness of hand washing techniques I am sure I could find some studies on pub med if you need them.

The faucet (and door) handle are the dirtiest areas in any bathroom, for two simple reasons: 1) most people that touch them have dirty hands - that's why they're here 2) they are not cleaned very often (watch the janitor)

Especially the door handle. I've seen enough people not wash their hands after using the urinal or even the toilet to ever want to touch that when leaving a public restroom.

Well, it's the recommended method from the Danish Serum Institute (SSI), which resembles the CDC in the United States.

(danish, pdf) http://www.ssi.dk/Smitteberedskab/Infektionshygiejne/Hent%20...

Edit: That one is not specifically for flu, but too avoid infectious diarrhoea. We had a similar one at my job, specifically targeted against viral infections.

Citation needed for "reducing e touching of things that other people touch helps avoid catching a contagious ailment"? Down vote.

>Citation needed for "reducing e touching of things that other people touch helps avoid catching a contagious ailment"? Down vote.

Depends on the ailment, Einstein. If its virus doesn't survive outside the body (which a lot of them do not), then "reducing the touching of things" does nothing.

And if the chances of catching it from a faucet are minuscule compared to someone having it breathing in the same room as you, then again, "reducing the touching of things" (especially when you already washed your hands) will gain you very little.

Ever heard of profiling and diminishing returns?

By all means, keep touching the faucet. Don't let me stop you.

This seems a bit misguided. The benefits of turning the tap off while you soap your hands are easily offset by staying in the shower for a few minutes longer.

Since soap isn't even liquid on dry hands, I guess he started running the sink, then soaped up his hands to start washing, and tried to turn the taps off when the sink became full.

I'm a fan of foot controlled faucets. I'll talk to my plumber about the possibility of getting some tomorrow.

OK, just so everyone doesn't think I'm an idiot who puts soap on his hands before the water...

I had already turned on the faucet, gotten my hands wet, soaped up, and then when rinsing, realized it had gotten too hot and wanted to change the temperature so I could rinse without burning my hands... Man, people below are treating this like a brain-teaser!! ;) haha..

Pretty sure if you speak to the tap in parselmouth it starts shooting out water.

>Put everything on the same plane, and you make it harder to focus on a specific section of the page.

Citation needed.

Edit: Since I'm getting downvoted, tell me that https://svbtle.com/ content isn't on the same plane and still readable? You can have everything on the same plane and with proper use of whitespace and good typography, it can be very readable.

Other examples:



Hacker News

The "citation needed" is one of my favorite know-it-all, over-objective "hacker" sort of memes. It's just hilarious. Not everything that is true or helpful has or needs a citation. Are you really asking for a citation to a controlled study that measures readability of a flat and not flat designs?

And more than that, if you disagree, don't pretend to ask for a citation, just explain why you disagree. Most likely, even if you can't admit it, you'll find that you don't disagree, you are just misinterpreting.

In this case, the statement is

- an opinion based on experience

- obviously true

- coupled with an example anyways

In addition, the statement is relative, allowing for successful designs that are flat. So examples of readable flat designs are irrelevant to the truth of the statement.

You probably received down votes because "citation needed" is lazy, uninformative, uninteresting, and, in this case, wrong.

Fair enough, but considering I clarified why I said citation needed 14 hours before you posted and 5-10 minutes after I made the original comment, the fact that you and others are still attacking this statement, rather than the points I brought up, seems a bit silly to me.

Sure, I could have provided this clarification earlier, but I have already conceded that the original comment was snarky and lacking in context for such a short statement.

And to your specific comments:

>Are you really asking for a citation to a controlled study that measures readability of a flat and not flat designs?

Are you suggesting that this isn't testable? I guarantee Microsoft and others have tested it. If the author isn't prepared to provide data, then it should be presented as an opinion.

"I believe that..."

> - obviously true

If it is obviously true, then there must be data to back it, right?

>In addition, the statement is relative, allowing for successful designs that are flat. So examples of readable flat designs are irrelevant to the truth of the statement.

My point was in regards to this particular statement, which, in my opinion, is stated as a truth:

>Put everything on the same plane, and you make it harder to focus on a specific section of the page.

I've agreed in later comments that you can take "content over chrome" too far in UI design, but this statement is NOT necessarily true in regards to content existing on the same plane. Putting everything on the same plane does not mean that it is harder to focus on a specific section of the page. Poorly designed websites are hard to read, regardless of what plane the content exists. I merely pointed out that there are examples that do not fit this viewpoint. In fact, I would argue that these examples tend to be the most readable designs I've seen, but this is an opinion that I have, so I have made sure to clarify it merely as that: an opinion.

As I've posted below, I am tired of people posting articles or blogs (and others upvoting these posts) that are not backed by any data.

If something is posted as an opinion, then I agree that it doesn't need a citation. Unfortunately, there is a reoccurring theme that I've seen become more and more prevalent in the tech community, a theme where ideas are pushed as truths when the author has done nothing to show that there is actual, credible, merit to the conclusions that have been drawn.

If these ideas were presented in any academic circle without evidence, they would be disregarded and laughed at. Yet here we are, discussing a post with a +200 upvote count, and the author has done little to prove his or her point, besides cherry pick examples that suit his or her conclusions. Content existing on another plane MAY improve readability, but I cannot say for certain. But I can point out that there are some very readable websites that have their content and navigation exist all one one page.

I think we can all agree that bad design leads to bad readability. And content existing on the same plane isn't inherently bad design. Proper use of whitespace and good typography can go a long way to improving readability and the UX. See Bing results http://www.bing.com/search?q=hello+world&go=&qs=n... (although I'm not a big fan of their social sidebar, but the results page and the top level navigation, is in my opinion, very usable)

So why should anyone accept this presentation of ideas that are not prefaced with the fact that they are an opinion and are not backed by any data? Why is it snarky to ask for evidence of these ideas, yet in academia it is normal and encouraged to be skeptical? If I presented an idea to my boss, his first question would be where is the data to support this? If I proposed an idea to my advisor, he would ask why do I believe this and what is the supporting evidence for this claim.

Why are these types of posts continually upvoted? Is it because we want agree with the author's idea? Is it because others have already upvoted this, so therefore the author is probably right? I honestly do not understand. It isn't like it is impossible to test this.

I didn't say that it was impossible to have good content hierarchy with a flat design, I just said it was harder.

And "citation needed" is the Hacker News equivalent of YouTube comments: snarky, doesn't bring anything to the debate, and totally irrelevant.

Is it actually harder though? I don't think so. I think there is some truth to the idea that content over chrome is a good usability principle (obviously to an extent, Win8 takes it a little too far sometimes), and in my opinion, it is easier to learn proper use of whitespace and good typography than how to make textures and less "sterile" designs.

My point is you are stating your opinion as if it is a truth, when it isn't.

Sure, citation needed is a little snarky, but I disagree that it doesn't bring anything to the debate and is irrelevant. Maybe you could have pointed to usability studies, so there would at least be some data to back up your claim.

I'm not a designer (or a good one, anyway), so I welcome corrections from good designers, but I'd assume that whether or not flatness in this sense is a good idea would totally depend on context: how much site navigation is there, how many other presentational elements, ads, links to other things, etc.

Svtble works because it takes a minimalist's approach to all of that, throwing it all away into the bin. The content is readable because it's almost the only thing on the page. The font is large and the content is centered.

But would that work in the general case, as an approach for user interfaces and search engines and the modern day portal page and so on? I can't think of any examples there that would be considered "good design".

Good points, but a lack of examples does not necessarily mean that it isn't possible. I think Bing has down a good job of having a flat design with high usability.


Ehh. Personally, I find Bing's example there to be identical to Google's, along with all the same flaws. It's readable, but for instance there's no contrast between the search results and the "related searches" sidebar.

And I would say that the use of whitespace and typography is enough to differentiate it.

Your examples all have the content centered under a single column (which is a LOT of chrome), a flat design would have little to no margins.

DF (http://daringfireball.net/) even has site index which is another no no from a flat deign perspective.

PS: Notice how both of these changes make the sight less user friendly?

When has flat design meant little to no margins? I'm genuinely curious about this interpretation of flat design.

"Citation needed" is absolutely snarky, in the sense that it is highly critical. And it should be used consistently and unapologetically. Would you be snarky in your response to someone accusing you of being a witch? I hope so, and I hope you would point out that some evidence would be nice.

Snarkily requesting evidence is not a bad quality in an online community—it's a vital one. Stating things as facts and refusing to even attempt to provide evidence is a bad quality.

If you claim that flat interfaces are more difficult to use, and someone else claims the opposite, how do you each attempt to justify your positions? Do you compete to see who can more quickly compare their opponents to YouTube commenters, or do you simply cite some evidence to corroborate your position?

"Citation needed" is intellectually lazy. It is middlebrow dismissal's slightly more popular cousin.

"Citation needed" is never a counter-argument, but often stands in place of one. It is the rhetorical equivalent of burying your opponent in discovery: it is a challenge that consists solely of expecting someone else to do more work than they would like to.

If you have a question about something, ask. If you disagree with something, then make your argument. Never simply post "citation needed" and think that you have contributed anything to a discussion.

(Just FYI, it's also a "tell" -- some people will avoid engaging you if you post nothing more than "citation needed", just as some people avoid engaging others that end every sentence with "lol".)

"Citation needed" is anything but intellectual laziness. It is a calling out of intellectual laziness, in the form of an unsubstantiated assertion, and need not be a dismissal.

If someone's going to make extraordinary claims, I'm going to request extraordinary evidence (or any evidence at all). It's even possible that I'm interested in the proposition and would like to pursue it further, but with the benefit of a bit of directed guidance from the author to a specific starting point. And if it's an absolute bullshit claim, well then, the onus is on the bullshitter to back themselves up (trivially done if they're not bullshitting), not on me to spend my time digging up countervailing evidence.

Citation: http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2008/01/extraordinary-c.h...

Everything I said in http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4972943, plus:

If you're actually interested in a claim and you need help finding further information about it, then say so. And if you think it's obvious bullshit, then say so by pointing out why.

"Citation needed" is a meme. First it was just a good practice on Wikipedia, then Randall Munroe made a comic with it (http://xkcd.com/285/), and then because lots of geeks like xkcd and it was political season the joke spread everywhere, and now, just like every other stupid meme, it is old and boring and misused and needs to be put out of its misery.

It's "lol" for pretentious people.

> And if you think it's obvious bullshit, then say so by pointing out why.

How about: I (honestly) don't believe "putting stuff on one plane makes them difficult to read", nor had I ever any trouble with understanding flat interfaces. So how can we reconcile our opinions? You assert a general statement, I have a counterexample (i.e. myself) that seems to go against it.

You can't assert general statements without supporting evidence and expect people to believe you just like that. You can either mark it as opinion ("I believe ..."), or expect to hear requests for citations.

Yes, "citation needed" is a meme. Yes, it came from xkcd, which is so popular among geeks[0] not only because it's funny, but mostly because it's smart and accurate. It's not just another web comic out there.

> just like every other stupid meme, it is old and boring and misused and needs to be put out of its misery.

I'm sorry you say that. You see, you are in the Internet right now. It's an another world inside the real world. What you call "stupid", "old and boring and misused" memes are - for better or worse - the cultural and historical heritage of this place. They are equivalent to proverbs or adages of real world. You cannot get rid of them, they are product of culture.

[0] - and especially HN crowd; just search for "Relevant xkcd" or "Obligatory xkcd".

If you're a skeptic (i.e. scientific skeptic), then you default to not believing a claim until evidence is introduced to support it. Is it intellectually lazy to say "citation needed" to someone that is accusing someone else of being a witch? I firmly believe that I have no obligation to prove that I am not a witch, and moreover that such attempts would be impossible. The person who makes a claim that has not been widely observed empirically is the person who needs to present evidence.

In the case of user interface analysis, I thought most of us agreed that real data is much more important than a single user's anecdote. If someone makes the anecdotal claim that since they dislike a certain UI feature it must perform worse in general, that person needs to present actual evidence. Unless I have done my own research, the only thing I can do is request evidence and remain skeptical until I see some. It is equally fallacious for me to counter with my own anecdotal evidence. Saying "citation needed" is precisely the appropriate response to baseless claims.

Thoughtlessly saying "citation needed" is a recipe for an insidious confirmation bias. It is always intellectually lazy, in the same way that blindly accepting provided claims is intellectually lazy: it allows the reader to avoid thinking about the claims in question.

Citing a study is not a panacea for bad ideas, and lacking citations is not a death sentence for truth. Hacker News saw an article just the other day on how many conclusions drawn by science are incorrect. Don't be so eager to avoid thinking critically that the presence or absence of a citation dictates your response to an essay.

> it allows the reader to avoid thinking about the claims in question.

There is nothing to think about when there is no evidence, except how to gather or find reliable evidence. No amount of solitary mental rumination will yield a revelation about how effective certain UI features are with users. My own anecdotes are just as useless as my opponents'. This isn't laziness. I'm not being lazy when I ask accusers to provide some evidence that someone is in fact a witch.

And sure, the scientific community may be out of date or downright wrong, even half of the time. That's not an argument against the need for evidence. It's an argument for thoughtful analysis of evidence after it is presented, and more and better techniques for gathering evidence.

> It is always intellectually lazy, in the same way that blindly accepting provided claims is intellectually lazy: it allows the reader to avoid thinking about the claims in question.

I did think about the statement, and I thought it was untrue. Then I asked for evidence to support the claim. Is that intellectually lazy, or is the original post intellectually lazy?

Regardless, 5-10 minutes after I posted "citation needed," I backed it up with examples, and followed up on subthreads with more points.

Do you really expect "citation needed" to prompt a useful discussion? How often do you think that happens? Here, click through the search results for comments with "citation needed" and tell me how many great discussions followed from it: http://hn.shomisearch.com/#comments+with+citation+needed

Don't you think it's boring? Don't you think there might be a better way of asking a question about a claim than merely throwing down "citation needed" after a comment, like an e-peen on the dinner table?

Now that I have replied with a comment lacking a single claim, preventing another stupid use of "citation needed", do you see how ridiculous and twisted that vapid phrase could make conversation in forums full of silly^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hlike this one? Should we all begin using Platonic dialogues just so that we can avoid having to bring a database of references along for any claim, lest we get molested yet again by people so intellectually lazy that they hilariously refer to themselves as "scientific skeptics" despite lacking the curiosity to research a claim on their own?

edit: Bah, I can't put quotes around "citation needed" in the search link above, and I don't feel like fixing the parsing for %codes tonight. You'll have to put the quotes in yourself to get the appropriate results.

> Do you really expect "citation needed" to prompt a useful discussion?

Not really, and that's not the point of the statement. Until there is evidence, the only thing to discuss are your own predictions of what the evidence would show, or your own useless anecdotes. The point of the statement is to challenge the claimant to provide evidence, and as a side effect, to remind other readers to be skeptical of claims until they see evidence.

Sure, it might be boring, especially relative to baseless assertions that make a complex problem sound easy. Again, staving boredom is not the goal of most conversations—for that I turn to cinema or video games. Witch trials, while unscientific and horrifying, were certainly not boring.

If someone pushes a statement as a fact and not as their opinion then they better be prepared to back it up it with evidence. End of story.

It's my blog! Do you really want me to prefix every single sentence with "it is my opinion that…"?

Feel free to do that in your mind if you want to, this way it won't bother other people.

There's a hell of a lot of difference between presenting an opinion and presenting something as fact, without backing it up.

"citation needed" is an apt response if something is presented as fact, without backing it up it's not relevant for arguments, which are clearly presented as opinion.

It doesn't really matter how outlandish an opinion is, but if you make assertions and present them as fact, then you better be prepared to back them up with evidence.

I would like for you to provide evidence for your statements, more than just a single screenshot.

>Put everything on the same plane, and you make it harder to focus on a specific section of the page.

How does a person draw a conclusion then without any evidence? Seems like confirmation bias to me.

>Get rid of all texture, and you might end up with cold, sterile designs that scare users away.

What's the point of making such statements that do not seem to be drawn from actual real world experience or data? Great, you have an opinion backed by what exactly? A personal emotional response to such designs? Do you actually avoid such designs? What is the value in making statements that have no backing data?

Did or does anyone say that Google's design might alienate users? It has always been one of the most sterile designs of any search engine or portal.

When people on the news make such statements, we laugh at them because we know they are just making these comments to get hits or views. They are trying to create controversy or lead people to agreeing with them when there is no evidence to back it up. It is analogous to fear mongering.

My biggest beef is people upvoting these types of posts. These posts are basically just piggybacking on general sentiments on Hacker News. Sure, at first glance, people tend to agree with them (see the +200 upvote count), and writing them may get the author some minor publicity, but when you attack them critically, you see they are not founded on any strong evidence. They are intellectually lazy posts.

And it isn't just you, it's all of the tech community that does it, and I am tired of it.

Thank you. I was somewhat puzzled why this article got so many up-votes. It didn't seem to say anything new or interesting. I half expected it to end with, "I'm beginning to think that form ever follows function."

It's not that the article is wrong per se, it's that it states some fairly obvious ideas that are true in a broad sense (e.g. a user needs some visual guidance to make sense of a page; designing for looks at the expense of function is a Bad Thing) while being horridly weak in the details and specific examples.

Since there's little substance to the article it mainly serves as a kind of flag for taste preferences. People agree or disagree with the general sentiment, but when pressed to explain why most can't. I think this is why there was a such a reaction to "citation needed"; the annoying realization that one's opinions are merely anecdotal observations with no ready means of objective verification.

The question (perhaps rhetorically) was asked if posting "citation needed" ever lead to a worthwhile follow-up discussion. I'm thinking probably not.

Anecdotal observation: It's occurred to me that when people make obviously non-personal assertions, and they have some backing evidence, they tend to post it with their comment. If you don't see the citation it's likely because the poster hasn't any, and asking for it will be met with silence (or possibly derisive dismissal of the idea of being asked for evidence).

I attribute this to people asking for supporting links often enough that many posters think it's expected of them. I would like to think this is true.

Do you have evidence to support this claim? Citation needed.

Do you have any evidence to support that you don't need evidence to backup facts or are you just being facetious?

If you said the world was flat, and someone asked for evidence, would you also ask that where is your evidence that you need evidence?

> If you said the world was flat...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me such a beautiful piece of clay to work with.

If I said, "the world is flat!", and it was around 400 BC, you, being an educated fellow, might say, "but what do you make of Pythagoras then?"

If I said, "the world is flat!", and it was circa 100 BC, you, being a clever and worldly fellow, might say, "but what do you make of Eratosthenes then?"

If I said, "the world is flat!", and it was the 1400s and you were friends with sailors or were yourself a sailor, you might say, "well, then why do the sails appear before the ship on the horizon?"

If I said, "the world is flat!" and it was the 1600s, you would think I was an idiot, because by now Magellan's voyage was well known and trade had begun to circle the globe, so you might just bite your thumb at me or ignore me.

But if I say, "the world is flat!" and you say, "citation needed", that is the stupidest possible "skeptical" response.

See, I'm not saying it's wrong to ask for a citation for a questionable claim. I'm saying that we should do better than that -- a request which you are arguing so vehemently against that, by now, if you actually were interested in whether or not "the design can be flat!", you could have come up with some examples to argue with.

Every time you, or anyone, says merely "citation needed" without further thought or consideration or argument or inquiry or contradictory evidence, what you are actually doing is holding an enormously loud sign which says, "I am not smart or curious enough to ask you a good question about this, but I am suspicious of it anyway."

And that's really lame.

No, no, no.

If you are claiming something, than the burden is on you to provide us with evidence. Not on us.

And, in case of your example, "citation needed" is the most valid answer in XXI century, when your claim goes against all common scientific knowledge. Saying anything more is not intellectual laziness, it's a waste of energy. Burden of proof, again, lies on you.

Oh. Well, since you said, "End of story", I guess you're right after all.

That was a powerful argument there, I am in awe.

If someone pushes a statement as a fact and not as their opinion

It is clearly a subjective, editorial piece. The infantile demands that every statement be prefaced by "In my opinion, " (where such is painfully obvious already) is a nonsensical tactic when someone simply disagrees with the subject matter.

My point is that these types of posts are always upvoted on HN because they latch onto the latest general sentiments of the community. They are intellectually lazy posts that are not backed by anything besides some analogy the author has drawn to prove a point. As someone with a vested interest in design and UX, it pains me to see people upvote this.

I see "Citation needed" as a reminder that hn is not youtube and that claims that are not obviously anecdotal need backing support.

On a slightly different note, I find svbtle poor design.

My eyes keep getting distracted by the elements in the top left and right corner of the page.

With both of them, it isn't obvious what will happen if they are pressed. To me, it feels exactly what the author of this article was dismissing - design for design's sake, which make the site less usable than if they'd made it clear what they do.

Google Reader's top-level hierarchy is: 1) black menu bar 2) Google bar 3) options bar 4) left panel 5) list of items. The first problem is, that the logical structure is unnecessarily complicated, but that's not the point.

The second problem is, that there's almost no visual distinction / contrast between the main segments of the page, which makes it harder to process mentally. It's like a file manager that shows the filesystem as a flat list of files instead of as a hierarchy of folders. My first impression of the new Reader or Gmail design was - messy bunch of black texts on white or almost-white background plus some almost invisible gray lines and a weird red button. It just seems messy and structureless.

Svbtle or HN are different, they have much simpler top level structure - just a menu and a list of items. BTW, svbtle's design is superior to Reader's on multiple level's.

A functional interface needs to be understood. With each new interface you use, you load a new set of metaphors and interactions into your brain to help you navigate, understand, and use whatever it is that you are using. The interface needs to be relatable, or at least offer an explanation of how to use it. Having more experience with interfaces will make you more familiar with different design patterns and such, but there is a limit to how much we can relate to.

This isn't about readability, but rather usability, so I find your examples poor. It's not just about typography and whitespace. Yes, they are simple and on the "same visual plane", but they follow design patterns that have existed on the web for many years: Navigation placement is on the top and left, links are either underlined or highlighted. On the other hand, svbtle is using bizarre navigation visual cues at the top which need some level of inspection or trust to use, and medium doesn't have a standard navigation at all. They are designing away elements of the webpage that people are familiar with.

Not quite sure why this is being downvoted .. valid point?

Whenever I run into a blog with the un-subtle design, I hit the Readability bookmarklet: I can't stand the garish logos.

Zen and minimalism must vary by the observer...

A curve or spheroidal section is zen and minimal (1 stroke, 1 surface) A box with 5 sides, 4 corners, etc is not. There are zen circles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D, few to none zen squares.

Only if you're defining minimalism as 'the literal least amount of noticeable features'. The picture in your link is a terrible example of 'minimalism' by that definition - while it describes a circle created in a single stroke, the actual pattern is extremely complex. Then there's also writing and three chops.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but in the Middle East flat kitchen sinks are standard and ubiquitous. I wouldn't be so quick to assume that it's an aesthetic design decision — I bet it's more of a cultural preference.

I don't like flat sinks, but I can see how some people do. In Lebanon they generally build large flat sinks right into the countertop with the same marble. They are much larger than most American sectioned sinks and are good for certain things. They use a small squeegee to clean up after everything is done.

Kitchen sinks are a bit different. They are deeper, you don't shave in them, and they are typically sloped a bit so that they don't get small pools of standing water. These new bathroom sinks are pretty bad. They are really trendy in hotels along with the water found style sinks and the ones that look like a bowl sitting on top of the counter top. Every one is a regression in usability solely for the sake of aesthetics.

One day we'll look back on this design trend and laugh. Too bad it will take decades before these poorly designed items are replaced in homes and hotels.

Most "design" nowadays is like that. It's actually styling, not design. Real design concerns functionality and usability first.

Yes! And those bowl-shaped ones don't even have a ledge to put your toothbrush holder on!

God I hate those. The counter is either at your knees or the bowl is in your face. There's no where to put anything and simple tasks just end up being a mess. What a stupid idea!

Flat (edit: okay, flatish) kitchen sinks, as opposed to bathroom sinks, are ubiquitous in North America too. In the kitchen, the flat sink is useful for dish-stacking.

They're not flat, they slope slightly down to the plughole. It's a design compromise that allows for both dish-stacking and for drainage.

Yes, they are not <Flat>.

I've used a flat kitchen sink, and it is f@cku=ing stupid.

A sink you need to wash/squeegee everytime you put something it it to wash?

Ha ha. No. Thanks.

They're not spirit-level flat, but they're flat as far as the comparisons in the article are concerned.

kitchen sinks are deeper too, so splashes are minimized.

Also, my kitchen sink is actually slightly slanted towards the sink hole.

Don't people just use wash buckets inside their kitchen sinks anyway? It would cost me too much otherwise on a water metre in the UK.

This is one thing that differs between countries.

In Sweden... You have a sink split in two sections, one that you filled with dishes+water, one for rinsing. My parents yhsed a dishwasher, and I later had a dishwasher as well.

In the UK, my sister uses a wash bucket. This is the only place I've seen this.

In Greece, dishwasher again. The sink is also split like in Sweden.

In Japan, washing dishes in a single large sink under running water.


* The UK also has those braindead hot and cold in separate faucets on each side of the sink. So when you wash your hands, either you're wasting a ton of water, you're using cold water, or you're scalding your hands. Will never understand that. And this is in a NEW apartment!

* Also, many brits I've known don't rinse their dishes... they let them dry with the soap on them. Also inexplicable.

Not in the US. I have never seen such a thing.In any case, most people who own homes have dishwashers.

I didn't even think about dishwashers. I've only lived in one house with a dishwasher out of the ten that I've lived in. Are they that common place?

I have two Belfast sinks in my house.

Yes, they are. Inexpensive and trivial to install (replaced the one at my last house: probably less than an hour to get everything done).

Newer models will use less water than the average person doing the same amount of dishes.

Depends on the sink. If you've got a sufficiently large countertop, it's not uncommon to have a steel sink comprised of two basins, one for washing/soaking the other for rinsing.

Older construction with porcelain or enameled sinks often have a single basin. Both this and the finish make a removable plastic washtub useful both to protect dishes and allow for rinsing whilst washing. Some "efficiency" apartments may also have smaller sinks for various reasons and only offer a single basin, again, a washtub can be helpful.

The few I've seen have been people with only one sink (so, a single large depression), which makes it easier to wash and rinse. But if it's not large enough, none of them fit, so it's mostly an exercise in futility.

And yes, dishwashers are absolutely everywhere. Some don't have them of course, but they're standard fare in a huge number of places, even relatively cheap apartments.

Minor point, but he's talking about a bathroom in his parent's house in Paris, not where he lives in Osaka, Japan.

Hadn't seen the lebanese style sinks before, but a quick google image search brought up this pic: http://www.lebanon-hotels.com/book/images/accom/Faraya-villa... . Is that what you mean?

Interesting to hear another perspective.

Thanks, skimmed over that I suppose.

Yes, that's exactly it. I find them pretty annoying because water and food debris builds up in the corners and it's hard to get it all down. Could actually be a feature and not a bug, — I've never seen a garbage disposal there, so you don't want all the food going right down the drain.

Garbage disposals are essentially unknown in Canada (except on US-originated TV shows), and we use essentially the same sinks. (It is possible to purchase and install one, but I have never seen one installed in a home.) Food (at least appreciably large chunks of it) is prevented from going down the drain by the basket strainer that is part of the plug (which isn't completely removed when draining the sink). The strainer/plug is them emptied into the food waste/compost container that is in the kitchen anyway.

Seems more like a result of the flat materials used to make the sink.

you see those in india too, especially in older houses and rural areas.

A traditional kitchen sink style is "The Belfast Sink" - an image search shows these to be big and flat style sinks. Not it's not just in the Middle East.

In the UK these kinds of sink were/are often used in conjunction with a smaller bowl that went into the sink [1] (less often these days). The sink has multiple functions in addition to washing cutlery, plates, etc. Sometime quite large things are washed in the sink, however when typical dish-washing is being done, a smaller bowl in placed in the sink to economize on hot water as well as to bring about the other advantages that OP claims for a curved sink.

[1] http://www.lakeland.co.uk/p21352/Sink-Bowls

[2] http://quezi.com/12083

Flat kitchen sinks work mostly because the facuet in kitchens usually swivel, so that you can move the flow of water to flush things out of the corners.

In my own apartment I have a directional, tilting head [1] attachment. It lets you point the water stream anywhere within the sink, and it has a secondary mode that turns the stream into a wider shower-style spray.

I have a flat sink in my bathroom. It's slighty sloped, but that doesn't help much against gunk collecting in the corners; it's awful precisely because the faucet doesn't swivel, and the faucet is one of those low, short bathroom types, so adding that same attachment would not help much.

[1] http://i.imgur.com/XKdED.jpg

Same in Israel, with the caveat that households which keep kosher often have two sinks side-by-side; one for meat and one for dairy.

In the US I often see kitchens that have two "sinks" with one faucet in the middle. Usually one of the sinks holds a drying rack.

I'm not going to comment on the message as a whole, since this whole flat aesthetic thing has been argued up and down on HN over the last few months. But there was one line that stuck out to me as being a little off:

> Get rid of all texture, and you might end up with cold, sterile designs that scare users away.

I'm on board with the usability argument, but I don't think that removing gradients and drop shadows necessarily results in designs that "scare users away." If anything, I think that abandoning realism allows you more freedom in making a warm & inviting designs (e.g. some downright unnatural combinations of pastels that would look too busy with those touches of realism).

but I don't think that removing gradients and drop shadows necessarily results in designs that "scare users away."

Try using Office 2013. It's white and flat (even flatter in Win8 over Win7, you lose refrence to what the 'tools' part and the data part is. It is not inviting at all, unless you dig in to the options and try to put some slightly different colors/textures on it.

It fails because it's been designed by idiots, not because it's 'flat'

Can't stress this enough. Bad people using a well-thought-out design aesthetic can still make something that looks like garbage.

I've noticed that most large companies go for a sterile look. Google, Microsoft, etc. I've always thought of Apple design as sterile as well.

Getting off track, Apple design is simply not a monolithic, "zen" one-stroke entity. Apple design amalgamates understated hardware with loud, lickable user interfaces. To see my point, consider that Apple hardware is definitely NOT lickable, whereas software generally is. Historically this may be due to the dissonance between Forstall (software design) and Ive (engineering design).

(Feel free to shred me as I don't really know anything about Apple design.)

The interesting thing is that the new Apple hardware starting with the iMac certainly started out as lickable, and very similar to the original OSX software (with pinstripes and all). Both the software (OSX) and hardware has gradually become more and more clean and "sterile" with time. The exceptions have mainly been certain applications and a few UI widgets / icons.

> I'm on board with the usability argument, but I don't think that removing gradients and drop shadows necessarily results in designs that "scare users away."

He didn't talk about gradients or drop shadows, he talked about textures. Wood grain is texture, the paper fibers in most book pages are texture, ... There is such a thing as too much texture, but there is also such a thing as not enough texture: when there's no texture, the work feels dead, like holding a single chord forever.

You can for sure create a nice design without using any texture, but still from UX point of view, depending on the complexity of the user interface, buttons with shadows will be more visible and easy to recognize for a user than flat rectangles. It is especially important when designing UI for buying things and making payments.

He said might end up.

The "might" there is simply a weasel word for the opinion presented.

The analogy doesn't hold water.

A flat sink is a flat sink because it is flat.

A flat design is a flat design because we call it "a flat design."

Skeuomorphism isn't realism - pixels are pixels not leather.

A gradient isn't a shadow.

The flat "add comment" button below does not cause me confusion.

Curving a surface doesn't necessarily make it handle liquid properly.

A poorly designed urinal will splatter if hung too low on the wall.

And speaking of urinals, rounded corners and drop shadows do not make the image of a button art, unless perhaps one hangs it on the wall.

Skeuomorphism isn't realism

People argue that "skeuomorphism" isn't the right term for slapping photo textures on everything. It might not be, but obviously "realism" is an even worse term. Leather, chrome, or paper background textures resemble nothing "real" about showing weather forecasts, emails, or search results.

(That isn't to say good design can't use photo textures, but even many of the better examples tend toward the overblown "realism" of CD-ROM software from twenty years ago.)

The analogy isn't between "flat" and "flat." It's between "different and worse" and "different and worse."

The most irony I found on this page is where an image annotation berated Google for their flat design, at the same time as having a distracting background image, unexplained bolding of the first letters of 'Google Reader' and generally distracting and disorienting design.

One does not need to be an expert to be critical. I just bought a new coffee table and spend hours selecting one based on the joints, finish, type of wood, price, etc... I know how to pick good furniture. That doesn't mean I know how to build a quality table.

Also, the cobbler's kids have no shoes!

I would like to officially formulate this new law:

"Any blog post criticizing a design will in turn see its own design criticized."


They're not bold, I'm just using "font-variant: small-caps;" (here's how it looks for me: http://cl.ly/LooP)

And I just like stripes :)

I would say the best practical reason to move over to a flat design is performance increases. It has been shown that CSS properties such as background-image gradients and border-radii are among the worst offenders for decreased front-end performance. With websites approaching 2MB in size it is no surprise to me that flatter design makes for smaller files (less CSS prefixes, less JS repainting) and less browser rendering. This was precisely why our company moved over to a flat design as we've increased the number of users rapidly over the past year.

You're falling into the trap of thinking everything is HTML. This doesn't apply to native code. There's very little penalty for using rounded rects, drop shadows (which are part of most drawing primitives), and gradients.

Good points in this article. Another aspect I dislike about many modern bathroom sinks is the position of the tap (faucet).

If the sink has a single mixer tap, it's usually placed in the centre of the basin to give a neat symmetrical look. However, if the bathroom sink is fairly small, the tap protrudes forward and you find you can't lower your head to splash your face without accidentally bumping your head against the tap.

I prefer mixer taps that sit to the side of the basin or even mixer taps where you can swivel the arm left or right.

I'm not sure about bathroom sinks, but my wife and I hate our non-flat kitchen sink. Sure, I understand that it's curved so that it drains water, but there is such thing as too much curve. In our sink, dishes that should be able to be set down properly often end up tipping over or sliding towards the drain. It's actually a big pain as dishes slide and get in the way. Our next sink will most definitely be a flat (flat-ish, perhaps with a very, very small incline).

If you respect form follows function you can apply fashion to form. Now Apples "realism" seem to look old. In few years it's maybe in again. That's how fashion works.

If you have a flat sink, you need an aerator on the spigot. This doesn't solve everything, but it's a big improvement with respect to splashing.

author seems to be confusing visual styling with hierarchy and information architecture. it's harmless to remove gradients and shadows, but removing context and visual priority is what makes the sink flat.

The parabolic sinks that started popping up all over Seattle around a decade ago are great. If I owned my own place, I'd rip out all the existing sinks and put in parabolic sinks.

He misses the most obvious problem of all, which is that you can't clean easily in the corners of many sharp-edged flat sinks.

The author goes to conclude that Windows RT is an example of 'Flat Design' and doesn't even justify why.

FYI: In my opinion, the author's $5.99 EBook on design is the best example of 'Flat Design' (I bought one). He claims to teach you to design a web app from scratch, but whereas the book is more of a walkthrough for a basic app than a 'how-to' (which is what he claims). Once you purchase his book, you realize it was a 'flat-design' and not a curvy one.

The author is an Apple fanboy himself, bashing out the new Windows Metro UI under the guise of a design article. Two years from now, I'd love to meet the author and see him claim the same thing. The author has a blind-folded belief that 'Apple knows what they're doing' or rather the 'Apple can do no wrong' mindset. I guess that's why you never saw any articles on Apple maps on his blog.

Coming back to the point, if Apple knows what they're doing, I bet Microsoft knows much better, because they are #2 in the OS arena WORLDWIDE (google for stats). So, this ideology that the Metro UI sucks is just time-limited. It's only a matter of time that people get accustomed to it and they will and MS knows that.

Wow. It's so interesting to see how our own biases can completely transform the meaning of what we're reading.

Where did I bash Windows RT? How am I an Apple fanboy when this article barely mentions Apple, and only to say designers are getting tired of Apple's aesthetic?

I'm a little bit sad for you. It seems you see all discourse through an "Apple vs XYZ" filter, and that must be extremely restrictive. Just think of all the information you're missing out on by reducing every single piece of information you come across to a binary dichotomy…

I had an slight-tilt shower floor in Laos. No problems with the way the water hit the surface, but there were some problems with the way that the water was draining to a point two feet away from where the drain was.

My wife and I have encountered these at many hotels over the past few years.

The reason is environmental: the sink is supposed to splash if you turn the water too high. It's intended to keep you from wasting water.

if the reason is to avoid unnecessary water consumption, wouldn't it be better to limit the rate of the water? Less water is used and nobody gets wet and annoyed.

Low flow faucets make you look cheap.

Flat sinks are for putting utensils in and that should be the end of it. Easy to store dishes, pots, and pans. Curved sinks? Not so much. But for the bathroom? An odd choice but to each his own.

Doesn't it seem that the move to flat design from skeuomorphism is an exact parallel of the move to modernism from pre-modernism in architecture?

Ahh, posts like this are like magnets for front-page HN. Mm, maybe I'm just a bit jealous. I should buy a boat. Or start a blog of my own.

The disadvantages of flat sinks don't end there. They're harder to clean, because dirt tends to stick in the corners.

A best of both worlds would be a flat sink that's angled/sloped towards the wall

I've seen those in restaurant lavatories.

The disadvantage is that when filling a sink e.g. for shaving, the water pools at a line rather than a point. this is obviously not a problem in a restaurant.

See the third illustration "With a flat sink, you need more water to get the same depth" - an angled flat surface would be somewhere between the two in efficiency of water use.

I think if I were going to shave this way, I'd use a bowl instead of putting a lot of water into a presumably-not-perfectly-clean sink. You could wash a bowl and put it away after, whereas you'd have to wash the sink immediately before each shave. If the designer of the sink expected using a shaving bowl, the flat bottom would make a lot of sense.

I've been thinking about why you see these in restaurants, upmarket nightclubs, corporate boardrooms, etc. IMHO it is that:

1) they look impressive

2) They look like you spent money

3) The only task that they're actually used for is washing hands.

This is a different set of purposes from home use. Making your home bathroom look like a nightclub bathroom at the expense of usefulness is a particular kind of folly.

The piping hot water used for shaving is going to kill most wigglies.

I've seen ones like that. They've generally been stone countertops with custom sinks with low-pressure fixtures that don't have aerators.

Very expensive custom work though. The fixtures alone are probably $2K. So yeah, I'll stay with my $50 Moen for awhile yet. :-)

Solution: Lower the water pressure.

What font is that, it's great.

Proxima Nova Soft.

In the future check out this extension as it allows you to hover over elements to quickly find the font: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/whatfont/jabopobgc...


The issue with flat / minimal design is the lack of contrast. I have had problems when gmail redesigned the interface early this year.

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