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Now Trending: Long shadows

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Now Trending: Long shadows

Liam Spradlin

Today I posted to Android Police about Android's rumored icon refresh, which would see Google's Android icons brought closer to their web counterparts (and to Google's own identity guidelines).

There have been many responses, from delight to anger to head-scratching to accusing Google of stealing the idea from those who create custom icons for Android launchers. That last point is why I think now's a great time to do a Now Trending about long shadows, though the trend - as a response to super flatness - has been around for quite some time now.

First, what do I mean by long shadow? A long shadow in this context is generally a hard-edged shadow, often at 45 degrees, which lies behind a primary element in the design. They are either solid all the way through, or gradually fade off to 0% opacity. Here's a quick example of each.

Long shadows are a divisive subject among designers and design spectators, with one side loving and/or using long shadows and the other classifying them as unnecessary embellishment or unneeded distraction.

The first, and certainly one of the most tasteful implementations of long shadows I encountered was in Google's own identity guidelines, which you can check out on Behance here. Google is flexible with the hard shadow, and uses it in places that make sense, not simply for the sake of using it. And I think that's the key to whether hard shadows look good - using them tastefully.

I think it's easy to justify both positions here. Long shadows can be obnoxious when implemented simply for the sake of it, but it's clear that they have at least some staying power. The trend surely started before Google adopted it in 2012, and has continued to evolve and spread since then. As a trend hangs around, it tends to get more refined, with designers finding more pleasing, creative implementations. Love them or hate them, long shadow's aren't likely to disappear any time soon.