What’s a ‘flat lay’?
Even if you’ve never heard the phrase ‘flat lay’, you’ve seen it before: a photo of meticulously arranged items, photographed from above.
It’s a style that’s particularly popular among food bloggers and #lifestyle bloggers, but you can find it everywhere – from big tech product launches to small business websites. Here’s a few examples of websites big and small using flat lays in their designs:
From photographer @kellysnapshappy.
Etsy home page, 2017.
We love flat lays. They’re visually appealing and easy to work with – a simple way to visualize a concept. Plus, there’s something satisfying about a perfectly lined up set of art supplies, or an imagined Instagram-perfect journaling session. It’s creative, unique, and easy to make your own – whether you use a stock photo, or grab your camera (okay, iPhone) and go the DIY route.
We hate flat lays. They can feel inauthentic and overused, especially when it’s applied to a tech product. If Facebook killed the gradient, then Apple will kill the flat lay.
Love it or hate it, the flat lay design style is one that’s made a big impact in graphic design, social media, and more. Check out the 3 million posts tagged #flatlay on Instagram for evidence. If done correctly, we think that flatlays can be a good choice for your site (even if you’re not a food blogger) (but especially if you are). Here are a few of our tips for utilizing flatlay design well:
The golden rules of flat lay design
1. Does your flat lay layout actually make sense?
“Ok, I’ve finished my Rubix’s Cube, got my single fried egg ready and had a sneaky bite of this donut.. time to get down to business” pic.twitter.com/LI8AOxz9JP
— Chris Martin (@chris_mrtn) October 11, 2017
Nothing distracts from a flat lay design quite like a weird combination of items. If it doesn’t look natural, then it’ll just be a distraction.
2. Is it original?
There’s over 10,000 ‘flat lay’ designs on Envato Elements and GraphicRiver, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find one that matches the look you’re going for. If you’re looking for a design that definitely hasn’t been used elsewhere, you could also work with a customizable flat lay style scene generator. With these, you can move items around, add your own designs, or incorporate your logo into the scene.
3. Is it a balanced composition?
A flat lay is a photograph. That means it should adhere to be basic rules of photography – and composition is one of the most relevant for this style. Whether you choose a flat lay that aligns all the items towards one central item, or the items are scattered throughout the photo, make sure there’s a focal point for your design.
Some flat lay designs we’d actually use
For the foodies
Disregarding the fact that no human person eats ice cream in this way, this is a pretty photo composition. And millennial pink is still on-trend, right?
Mushrooms or seashells?
These definitely don’t look like tacos in the traditional sense, but they’re nice to look at.
A nice, balanced design (even if it is missing the actual ice cream).
For something a little brighter.
For the beauty blogger
A vintage-style design.
Neon yellow eyeshadow might not be our shade, but this flat lay is well-balanced and uses the notebook as a focal point.
Casual shoes, check, car key, check.
The imperfections in this image – like the unmade bed – adds some authenticity to the photo.
Festive flat lays
This author’s portfolio is full of gingerbread men and candy cane designs.
The ‘we’re a tech company’ flat lays
Next trick: drinking coffee while wearing virtual reality goggles.
Subtle enough that it could be used as a website background or pattern.