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What is Isometric Design And Why Is It So Popular?

What is Isometric Design And Why Is It So Popular?

From physical to digital environments, we are surrounded by designs. With the change in the industry they are used in, from architecture to education or marketing, they have a different purpose to serve through technical drawings, video streaming app ads, billboards, graphic/UI UX designs for apps/websites, and more.

They significantly impact the emotions we associate with the products or how we perceive the brands. These designs are influencing the choices we make without us being consciously aware of them. The brands can leverage and intensify this influence by opting for the right strategy or visual art style.

One such design that you are surrounded by without knowing is isometric. Defying the constraints of traditional design visual perspective(flat design) is the reason for its increased popularity. It is the powerhouse of modern design, with a perfect blend of flat design's simplicity and 3D visuals.

In this blog, we have shed some light on the meaning of isometric design, uncovered the drawbacks of flat design, highlighted the advantages of isometric design, shared insights on crafting isometric designs, and examined real-world applications. Let us dive in and explore it in detail.

What is Isometric Design?

What Is Isometric Design Example

Derived from isometry formulated by Professor William Farish, Cambridge University, the word isometric (coined from a Greek word) is derived from the words iso, which means the same or equal, and metric means measure, giving it overall meaning as “of the same measure” or “having equal measurement”. 

Farish realised the need to eliminate optical distortion from the technical working drawings, which is when he formulated isometry, where he used the same scale for height, width, and depth.

Due to the use of the same scale for height, width, and depth, isometric drawings(a form of axonometric drawing) give their two-dimensional(2D) image/design the illusion of three-dimensional(3D) depth. It enables the artists or creative designers to render the 3D design in a 2D plane to create realism.

When viewing an isometric design, the viewers see all three faces of the object simultaneously as in an isometric view (orthographic). The surface is not parallel to the projection plane but perpendicular to the lines of sight, making the three dimensions visible on a 2D plane.

Now that we know what isometric designs are, let us dive in and find out why their rise in popularity.

Why Isometric Design Gained Popularity Recently?

The designs and the audience's preference for the visuals have evolved substantially with time. Before isometric, flat designs were used widely(are still in use), but they came with their limitation of being overly simplistic 2D objects with typography, grid-based layout, white space, and contrasting colours. However, these designs lacked depth and detail. Even at times, flat designs can induce confusion or lack of information.

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On the other hand, the isometric design offers the required depth and ability to add details and versatility through 3D perspective with less clutter, realism, and intricate details. From logos, hero images, app icons, blog-featured photos, UI UX design, architectural drawings, and more, isometric art styles have taken the creative world by storm.

To better understand the reasons behind isometric designs' rising popularity, let us find out some of the limitations of flat methods, which helped digital artists overcome and became the reasons for their popularity.

Isometric vs Flat Design: The Limitations of Flat Design

Flat Design Ui

Its isometric designs' unique blend of simplicity and depth makes it popular. But to truly appreciate its rise, it becomes inevitable to understand where the flat design falls short. Here are some of the limitations of flat design.

Anti Realism

Though flat designs have gained popularity for their simplicity and minimalism, Apple's UI is the best example. They adopted a skeuomorphic approach for app icons from its inception until 2013 when iOS 7 was unveiled, and the UI was revamped by using flat icons instead of the previous ones.

However, this approach may only be practical in some contexts. When it comes to visual elements where a touch of realism(like real-world objects or depth/texture/intricate details) is inevitable, a flat design will not offer convincing visuals. For example, flat designs are the least preferred for the architecture industry.

User Unfriendly

The flat designs may tick the checkboxes of clarity and simplicity in terms of characteristics of suitable methods. Still, they lack attractiveness and intuitiveness, which are highly desired by the users/viewers.

For a design to balance aesthetics and usability, it is essential to sustain user-friendliness. The lack of shadows and gradients makes it hard for the users to differentiate interactive visual elements like buttons or links. Hence, the flat design fails due to lesser aesthetics and questionable usability due to simple shapes and missing depth.

Extreme Minimalism

Just as usability without aesthetics would negatively impact the overall design, so would usability with extreme minimalism. Overly simplistic designs can induce a lack of visual internet and even clarity, leaving the user puzzled about the message the design intends to convey. It can even be challenging for the users to navigate through the design as they may not know what section of the design is clickable.

Lack of Usability

The major setback of the flat's design's simplistic visuals is the difficulty of differentiating interactive and non-interactive elements. Due to missing visual cues of depth, the user often can't immediately know what portion of the design is clickable or tapable. As the icons and buttons may not appear clickable, it would leave the users in a state of confusion, hurting the useability of the design.

Bad Topography

Topography becomes crucial as simple design and clean lines are pivotal aspects of flat designs. But it would be an antagonist when not chosen properly or lacks readability. Poor font choice, unstructured text, wrong font size, or disproportionate spatial relationship would frustrate user experience.

Limits Visual Options

Flat designs are infamous for their less or no creative freedom as graphic designers must stick to narrowly defined visual styles that involve fewer to no gradients, shadows, or intricate details. These straightforward shapes, minimal textures, and restricted colour palettes limit visual diversity or distinctiveness.

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A flat design would not be the best fit for a project where the design has to convey complex concepts, artistic expressions, or visually rich user experience.

In a nutshell, isometric designs intend to overcome the limitations of flat designs. Apart from overcoming the limitations of flat designs, here is what more isometric designs have to offer visual designers or artists.

Benefits of Isometric Design

Benefits Of Isometric Design

Isometric enables the designers to overcome the limitation of flat design and offers several noteworthy benefits. Here are some benefits that made isometric designs a go-to choice for web and app design, graphics, gaming, marketing, and more.

Emphasises Details

Viewing an isometric design is like zooming in with a magnifying glass on your design's cool stuff. It empowers the designers to bring every nook and cranny of the design (objects, characters, textures, and more) to life, from intricate fullscapes to the tiniest characters—this attention to detail levels up the design's richness.

The added visual depth and elevated storytelling nuances offer the users or viewers an immersive user experience addressing the user engagement concerns of digital artists.

Fresh And Creative Approach

Isometric designs give your stylish makeover by adding depth and dimension, making the overall design stand out with its dynamic and eye-catching visuals. It empowers the designers to add fresh and creative perspectives to the designs' visual appeal with a touch of innovation.

Along with the enhanced creativity and freshness, these designs offer a modernistic visual appeal, keeping the viewers engaged. The viewers can't ignore Such graphics and illustrations, especially when the internet is flooded with flat designs.

Adds Depth to Simple Design

Want to make simple things in your design pop even in 2D planes as if they suddenly have become 3D illustrations? Isometric designs are the best choice for you.

Imagine a flat plane image suddenly coming to life with a sense of depth and a whole new dimension. That is what the isometric art style does to the visual elements of the 2D plane. All of this without the design getting overly complex.

Convey Message Effectively

The effectiveness of communication through visual contexts is crucial when crafting any design, especially game layouts, business infographics, or education diagrams. Whether showcasing a product, presenting data, or explaining a process, a design that gets your point across effectively is a valuable asset in terms of communication through visuals.

Isometric design's three-dimensional perspective conveys depth and detail, ensuring the message is delivered or understood effectively. This is why isometric designs are powerful tools for effective communication in marketing and promotions, which involve storytelling.

View of object/product from all angles

Give the visual elements of 2D planes the 3D glory! Imagine a gaming environment in flat view and then in top view. The latter would give you a better understanding of the space and object placement in the visual environment.

The added depth and dimension of isometric design enable the graphic designers to present a 3D view of the designs, enabling the viewers to grasp how the visual elements look from different angles. The use of isometric designs allows graphic designers to highlight the desired feature or design details from a desired angle to offer a better understanding of it to the viewers.

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Modern and Trendy

It's the cool kid on the block regarding designs with modern aesthetics!

It becomes inevitable to keep up with the times when it comes to designs, as obsolete designs are every designer's worst nightmare. Using isometric designs would enable you to keep up with the times and make your designs look trendy, giving them a contemporary edge and versatility. This added modern flair would make your designs more appealing to today's audiences.

Better Visuals

Isometric design changes the way viewers grasp the visual content. Whether website designs, game environments, or objects, the creations feel realistic with an added sense of space and dimension. Unlike flat designs, isometric ones help to enhance the beauty of every visual element of the designs, making the overall design visually stunning.

The three-dimensional appearance, sense of depth, and realism combined result in some stunning and highly immersive designs with intricate details and a richer user experience.

However, does replacing flat designs with isometrics make a difference? Well, not every isometric art is a great one. Let us now understand what makes a tremendous isometric design.

What Makes a Great Isometric Design?

Isometric Landing Pages Modern Smart City

With core components or elements in isometric design, designers can make an object on a 2D plane appear as 3D without requiring expensive or fancy 3D software. Those core components or features enable the developers to make isometric designs.

Less clutter

Clutter is the biggest enemy of clarity, the latter being one of the characteristics of isometric designs. Too many elements would only confuse. Great isometric designs are the ones with minimal details without impacting the overall message of the message you want to convey through the image or design.

No converging parallel line

Look around, whether it is the horizon or street, at a distance; you would see the lines converging, and in the case of the horizon, their lines would meet at a vanishing point.

Unlike the human perspective of reality, where the lines appear to recede at a distance, isometrics remain parallel(they never converge or meet).

The 120-degree rule

The eccentric nature of these designs makes the visuals distinctive; however, many pseudo-isometric designs can be easily mistaken as the real ones.

A good or actual isometric design is only one in which the objects' x, y, and z axis are at a 120-degree angle from each other with horizontal lines at 30 degrees from the converging point.

Where to Use Isometric Designs?

Isometric Logo Design Example

Isometric designs are all the rage, but the question arises – where are the brands using them? Among others, these designs have a wide range of applications, from logos to infographics and in every type of design where you want to convey information with style and clarity. Here are some of the best use cases of isometric designs.

Logos

Whether you're a startup hunting for a logo to set brand identity or a well-established business revamping your existing logo, isometric symbols can add a unique and eye-catching impact. Isometric logos have this added depth and a touch of modernity, making them memorable. The versatility across platforms, from websites to business cards, makes it stand out from the traditional logo designs, empowering your brand to make a bold statement.

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Icons

Whether it is a website or mobile app, icons have a crucial role in its usability and aesthetics, as they are the signposts of the digital world that guide your users effortlessly.

The added depth makes the isometric icons more visually appealing and user-friendly. With these icons, you can add creativity to the interface, leaving a lasting impression on the target audience and overall user engagement.

Landing Page Design

From increasing traffic to conversion, landing pages play a significant role in lead generation and sales. As landing pages intend to grab the user's attention and visuals are crucial, using isometric design can work wonders for it.

As these designs are easy to understand, eye-catching, and persuasive to showcase products or services, they can hook the users to the landing page and effectively navigate them to the desired call to action(sign up, make a purchase, or explore further). The isometric approach enables the designs to transform the flat design into one with an interactive and inviting experience, which can become lucrative in increasing the overall effectiveness of the landing page.

Hero Images

Hero Images are the crown jewels of your website that set the tone for the website and memorable first impressions for visitors. Having a big, attention-grabbing isometric visual as a hero image would make your website stand out, besides instantly engaging the visitor to explore further.

Hero images can make or break a website's bounce rate(a way to measure user engagement). Good hero images can lower the bounce rate. The captivating isometric design of the hero image would positively impact the bounce rate.

Layered Graphics

One dormant cons of 3D models is their complexity, which can intimidate the audience. When it comes to technical drawing, say by an interior designer, these drawings or designs have various layers clubbed together to form the whole design.

With its added depth and dimension, the isometric design enables these designers to craft better-layered graphics, giving it the 3D impact without worrying about the complexities of the actual 3D modelling or compromised visual aesthetics.

Architectural Visualisation

The spatial relationships and design concepts can be better represented using the isometric art style, given its 3D perspective. It is an indispensable tool in architecture and construction, allowing architects to bring their architectural vision to life on paper or screens.

From building plans to urban landscapes and interior layouts, isometric designs allow architects or interior designers to present drawings or designs visually and engagingly. The clients and stakeholders can grasp these designs effectively.

Maps

For any location-based visuals like a fantasy world, city layout, or a game map, the isometric design enables graphic designers to create map visualisations that are easy to understand and aesthetically pleasing. The angled axis adds a realistic direction to the map, offering a better understanding of the landscape and making it look engaging.

Infographics

Want your infographics to be your visual storyteller? Isometric infographics are the best way forward. Infographics impart crucial stats or information in addition to conceived versions or chunks of a detailed topic—one critical aspect that every designer must consider when designing infographics.

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Using the isometric designs offers a 3D perspective to the infographics, making it easy for the audience to understand, navigate through, and memorise without making the design look cluttered or confusing.

The use of isometric art is not limited to these categories. The graphic designer can use it in various aspects and industries(architecture, healthcare, etc.) depending on your requirements and your designer's creativity.

Is Isometric Design the Right Choice For Your Brand?

In a world of design choices, isometric designs are the secret ingredient to make your visuals truly stand out. But just because they are great and popular does not mean they will work for all brands. If you are wondering if it is the right choice for your brand, here are some questions to ask yourself or your design team to make an informed decision.

  • Does your brand vibe with designs that have clean lines, a modern look, and a touch of depth?
  • Do you want to tell your users a visual story or guide your users through a journey?
  • Are you looking to engage your audience with attention-grabbing visuals?
  • Does the design align with your brand's identity and message?
  • Are you looking for a design approach that is fresh, eye-catching, and easily adaptable?
  • Does the visual perspective align or resonate with your target audience?
  • Is your target looking for something new and contemporary?
  • Are your competitors using it? 
  • What limitations do your existing design approaches have?
  • Looking for a design approach with a blend of minimalism and visual appeal?
  • Want a cost-effective design facet?
  • Would isometric design work well across your platforms(website, app, marketing material, etc.)?

Though there is no such thing as isometric design being bad for a brand, the communication through the isometric design can be either effective or unnecessary. And you surely want to ensure that you are not falling into the latter category.

Isometric Design: Concluding Thoughts

In wrapping up our exploration of isometric design, it is clear why this design art style has gained tremendous popularity over time. It is a visual powerhouse that offers design simplicity, depth, and dimension, offering versatility across platforms.

Isometric designs are more than just pretty pictures, as they are highly effective in telling stories, imparting information, guiding users, and offering immersive user experiences. By opting for isometric designs, you would not just keep up with the trends but make your idea come to life visually. Nonetheless, this art style is here to stay, so embrace it, experiment with it, and watch your design captivate your target audience.

Author Bio: Mehul Rajput is CEO of MindInventory, a software development firm specialising in delivering web and mobile app solutions tailored to businesses' needs, from startups to large enterprises. He leads business operations, oversees project delivery, and plays a pivotal role in shaping the company's strategic direction and future roadmap.

Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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