Web Style Watch: Round Is Out, Square Is In

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You may not have noticed, but over the last few years, web and application designers rounded your corners. Buttons and app icons lost hard edges, and it seemed fine and refined. Everything started to look like this:

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Now, the Data Mining blog points out that the clean lines of the square are coming back. Trendsetting firm, Stamen Design, has gone square-crazy (see below). So has the BBC.

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Design crazes certainly do come and go, but be on the lookout for this one. One subtext is that it may become a bit of an Apple-Microsoft battle. The iPhone has round cornered icons; the new Windows 7 operating system has gone square.

This move from clean lines to rounded ones and back again reminds me of when beveling your text was all the rage in the mid-90s. The faux-3D effect was sort of the faux-marble countertop of the web world, especially if you dropped a shadow on it.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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