Getting philosophical on gradients

We all know what a color gradient is. A glorious transition of one color into another. It is a pixel perfect and smooth effect. There are three main types: Axial, radial and conic. Thanks to programs like photoshop many other variations can be introduce into polygon shapes and other meshes to create fantastic appearances.

I like gradients. I always like the way they look and the way the colors blend together in mysterious ways. Some colors really don’t mix, while some look glorious. Putting them into rounded or unorthodox container shapes really make them POP!

I think on every project I have worked on I have tried to at least put a gradient into the background or where I thought appropriate. Even going back as far as high school I would spend time on Microsoft Paint and create various gradient designs. My favorite exercise was making a roiling lava filled planet with shades of orange, red and black. After adding heavy amounts of color splatter (using the spray can effect) it would look like the planet Mustafar from “Star Wars” lore.

Gradients are so easy to make anywhere on a digital platform. Although I am guessing here, I would assume that virtually any design or drawing program with color can create a gradient. If you are going to make some, here is a great article that can help you make beautiful gradients. I would give you some tips, but my gradients are usually abominations.

It is easy for designers to choose colors and create gradients, but it seems harder to figure out how to use them. My experience with them is rudimentary and unskilled. I create them without much reasoning as to why. Most times I just want to cover the white space in the background or add depth to a screen. I think that they are hard to implement speaks to them falling out of favor in current design. Many sites, apps and printed work goes for a light-weight aesthetic. Lots of white space, limited use of colors, back-to-basics and elegant styles like what you see in this medium post. Even Apple’s iOS design system guidelines prefer flat colors. If ever you do see a gradient it is for an 80’s throwback party flier. As a lover of gradients I believe a renaissance of gradients is around the corner. It won’t be like what we are used to seeing. It will involve very subtle, nature-inspired colors and the gradient may not be very deep either. It may only be a transition in the last 20–30 pixels of width/height in the container it resides in. Color fades through neighboring hues might also be prevalent as well as fade outs to black or white. These are just my initial guesses on how things may look.

There are still lots of possibilities out there that I can’t think of. I do look forward to the utopia of gradients littering the internet and invoking our senses in way that white space cannot. Of course I could be wrong about this. After all, accessibility issues are an important aspect to consider and when bell-bottom pants came back in style during the 90’s, that fizzled pretty quickly. If it lasts only a little bit I will be happy. I will make the most of that time and put out as many gradient-themed designs as I can.

A UX Designer in a UX Designer world

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