How to Maintain a Balance Between Culture and Technology in Designs

The pace of technological evolution is too fast, and it keeps changing with newer cultural and technical developments. The ongoing trends become obsolete in no time as the impact of cultural shifts keeps shaping and influencing the technology. But have you ever wondered how a design must be created to balance culture and technology perfectly?

Designs that are too technical might not be received well by the audience as the majority of the people may not have the required expertise. A design must touch the cultural notches and connect to the users well on a familiarity level. While such a design might be an outcome of successful experimenting, its lack of cultural aspect can limit its market reach.

However, if a design is culturally sound but not technologically, it cannot get past its competitors in the market. This is why maintaining the right balance between culture and technology is very important. Both of them impact the other significantly, and this factor cannot thus be left out while designing.

To understand this better, here is an example of the evolution of art from classical to the contemporary style.

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How art styles evolved from Neoclassicism to Impressionism

As a result of multiple art movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, art saw quite a lot of variations. Each style developed at that time believed in specific philosophies and ideas which shaped the culture and techniques back then. Two of the most significant ones were Neoclassicism and Impressionism.

Both of these had different purposes, and the way culture played an important role in their development is quite evident.

Neoclassical Painting

(Source : Google Images)

The neoclassical style of painting mainly developed with the notion of developing hyper-realistic paintings with many constraints and rules. It was meant to express sobriety and rationality, which was relevant to the culture prevailing at that time. Influenced by the Roman and Greek themes, these mostly depicted a clear subject matter and idea.

With several decorative elements and centrally positioned focus, these stressed on leaving not a single hint of a brushstroke. Aiming at photorealism, these were also said to emerge against an excess of Rococo style.

(Source : Google Images)

The technology at focus here was the finesse required to create a realistic image with a central theme and absolutely smooth strokes. Meanwhile, the philosophy behind it aimed at reflecting the culturally abundant themes, including moral virtues, patriotism, heroism, godly deeds, etc.

Impressionist Painting

(Source : Google Images)

As Neoclassicism aimed at hyper-realism, Impressionism was developed as a bold opposition to this style. It developed in an era where photography was introduced, and making realistic pictures no more made a huge difference. Emerging against an excess of Neoclassical paintings, Impressionism aimed at displaying the creativity of the artists.

With creative and visible brush strokes and multiple optical light effects, this movement was much bolder with expressing oneself. These paintings did not focus on the realistic portrayal of elements, but the artist’s perception of the world around him. Been developed in the culture with photography gaining popularity, these also captured the randomness of elements.

These were straight out of artists’ imagination and did not have a clear picture portrayal. Here, the technology focused on is impressions, unusual visual angles, and free bold strokes. However, the philosophy is capturing a unique blend of colors, lights, and the beauty of imperfection in the world.

Thus, both of these styles have a unique blend of technology and cultural theme behind their ideals. While both have their differences, significance, and importance, Impressionism emerged because of the cultural abundance of Neoclassicism.

The evolution of Interface Design

At the beginning of computer productions, the usual icons used were flat and with a simple appearance. However, with time and development of the interaction design of these computers, they were developed to be more user-friendly. To make the user-experience much realistic and lively, some of these companies developed innovative designs that required a lot of effort.

One of the first companies to implement rounded and 3D icons was Apple. With the launch of macOS Aqua, the globe witnessed a much realistic interface that was further adopted widely. To understand the way culture and technology played their roles here in the development of these designs, read on!

macOS Aqua

(Source : Google Images)

macOS Aqua launched its interface based on the theme of droplet-like-elements, thus named ‘Aqua.’ This required extensive designing and processes to incorporate this complex feature into a computer back then. It made use of transparency, translucence, reflection, and other such textures to create a remarkably visually appealing interface.

The aim behind these graphics, according to Steve Jobs, was to make them like candy that compelled the user to taste it. Serving its purpose successfully, this design gained popularity and was incorporated by other companies too. The culture here drastically changed and also pressed the companies to make appealing visuals.

Rounder and much realistic buttons/icons came into view, which was inspired by macOS Aqua. This gave way to applications that also allowed the users to utilize such hyper-realistic graphics on their websites. From here, a developer driven-culture started, and Web 2.0 adopted it further.

The Birth of Web 2.0

(Source : Google Images)

Web 2.0, better known as the Social Web, mainly referred to the websites that had user user-centric and user-friendly designs. To give way to a participatory/social culture wherein the graphics were more appealing, it made use of advanced textures. Initially, Web 2.0 struggled to go live on the web due to the limitations of the resolutions used earlier.

But it was launched at the right time, and it became quite popular as well. Web 2.0 adapted from the Aqua macOS and continued to create hyper-realistic buttons and candy-like glazed icons/texts. Adding elements like translucence, reflection, gradients, etc. came into vogue. The web designers found their hacks and ways to mimic this advanced design.

In an attempt to fit into the culture of compelling graphics, a lot of websites tried to convert into such graphics. While Web 2.0 gained a lot of fame, with time, its limitations made its designs obsolete.

The Death of Web 2.0

The desperately mimicked style of Aqua in Web 2.0 was later realized to be more superficial than natural. With unkempt and non-aesthetical use of textures like glass, reflection, gradience, etc., the designs appeared rather bizarre. It created designs that did not put ideas and layering into use.

These designs only used some cliche set of textures and created an uncanny and unnatural structure. Also, with the advent of newer and better technologies, the designing culture had already developed further, making this technology obsolete. To break this excess of Web 2.0 culture and its obvious strange designs, it came to a permanent halt.

Web 2.0 Trend shaped CSS3

Web 2.0 allowed the users to create graphics with advanced designing options; it also required plenty of hacks/codes to achieve that. This was when CSS3 stepped in with it’s easy to apply web designing features that allowed the user to instantly make regular designs. These could be added with minimum efforts and thus are efficient.

(Source : Google Images)

The great utility of CSS3, it’s quick to deploy, and easily integrable features made it quite popular. Even today, it is used for its remarkable qualities and the ease of applying seamless designs and customizations to websites. It targeted the designing culture that aimed to make visually compelling graphics but without the excess of mimicry like that of Web 2.0.

This majorly shows how the makers of CSS3 understood the limitations of Web 2.0. Thus, they created something that no longer mimics but has a signature of its own. Though it also gave the users options to add translucence, reflections, gradients, etc., it generated original and thus useful designs.

The Flat Design Trend

The next evolutionary stage of interaction design began when the users became very well acquainted with the 3D realistic designs. The market no longer needed such designs to emphasize that a particular element is a button or an icon. This is when, against the notion, the flat design trend came into being.

It no longer experimented with excessive textures and gradients; it was simple, less stark, and more engaging to the users. Unlike macOS Aqua, Web 2.0, or CSS3, it no longer aimed to add realistic elements like shadows or other elements for that. It targeted the mature market that was used to the concept of dialog boxes, buttons enough to understand the flat trend.

(Source : Google Images)

This also attempted to make designing simpler and to add a hint of minimalism to the entire outlook. This modern trend evolved against the complex, realistic designs whose purpose was to be friendly to the culture where computers were new.

However, the flat trend originated to make designing simple and address the users who are well acquainted with computer interfaces.

If you can avoid jarring errors in your designs, you’ll already be ahead of many outfits and certainly at least some of your competitors.

Final takeaways

All these real-life examples throw light on how design must acknowledge the cultural and technological needs equally. The way Impressionism and the Flat Design evolved to question the pre-existent excess of classics made them unique and bold.

While Impressionism offered greater freedom to the artist, Flat Design made it easier to design bulks of web pages. These evolved in context to cultural as well as technological needs while maintaining a fine balance too.

So, this is how a designer must find a balance and create designs that are useful and effective.

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