There's an interesting dichotomy emerging in the world of technology today. In the last decade we've become saturated with 3D content: 3D enabled televisions in our homes, plane-busting 3D movies in theaters, the faux dimensionality that has become par for the course for network graphics and branding. But the world seems to be getting increasingly flatter...specifically the visual experience presented in our hands within the bounds of smartphones, tablets, and computer screens.
"Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence."
The evidence of the flattening of the web is apparent even from the desktop experience, with retailers like Crate & Barrel designing shopping experiences recognizable as flatter and easier to navigate.
Some designers are looking to meet somewhere between the dimensional skeuomorphism of today with simplified iconography and typography to cut through the clutter on smaller devices.
Although the cyclical element of style/fashion is cited as a factor (this former graphic designer reminds quite fondly when Ryan McGinness titled his design compendium, Flatness Is God), it's safe to deduce designers and technology companies have returned to 2D more so out of necessity, with the constraints of smaller device screens pushing interface design into a process of editing, elimination and simplification. On a 4" screen, simulated dimensionality is easily lost, if not even cluttering, and the user experience is best served like mom's home cooking: simple.
Some of the most interesting explorations of 2D flat design is happening amongst the Android customization community, as showcased over at MyColorScreen.com, this example taking obvious cues from infographics.
Thus, whether it's the harbinger Windows Phone UI, the controversial Windows 8 experience, the simplified iconography of apps like Currency, SoLAR or Yahoo Weather App (the last two which vie for my choice of favorite weather apps), the minimalist yet info-rich Google Now, the popularity of infographics, and now possibly Apple's foray into collapsing elements (back) to a single plane, they all add up to an interesting and still-developing era where complex tactile interactions between people and their device are being designed alongside simplified visual user experiences.