Hello, Darkness

October 30, 2019
Quintin Carlson

Design dies in the darkness.

It’s the height of the fall tech season and every interface has shown up to the gala dressed in new black pantsuits with dark eyeshadow and onyx painted nails.

The latest design trend captured by the press and punctuated with the launch of iOS 13 is unequivocally dark mode. Interfaces have been darkened for everything from your iMessages and Mail client to professional creative software like Adobe’s Creative Cloud (which shifted dark many years ago in 2012), to your Things todo app, music streaming service, and even settings panels. This new-fangled user interface theme boasts some possible accessibility advantages (and disadvantages, as we’ve come to find), but I think we can all agree that the primary driver here is coolness.

As much fun as this noir theming for interfaces is, a new avant-garde design trend has continued to build steam behind the scenes. A cocktail of unintended adverse effects mixed with a base of hostile decision making; garnished and presented just in time to meet quarterly OKRS. The dark pattern.

Hostile Patterns

Dark patterns—the popular term of art for interaction techniques that are crafted to mislead and trick users—are not new to technology.

Engineering teams of all sizes have used dark patterns historically to boost revenue, sign-ups, and hit KPI targets at the expense of honesty and transparency. 

It’s hardly a new technique, yet media coverage has waxed significantly as of late. Coverage of dark patterns used by companies both large and small has customers asking tough questions, and, in some cases, filing suit against purveyors of such awful design practices.

Turn off the Lights

Welcome to Dark Mode. A blog by your design friends at Hologram. We'll be highlighting both antagonistic design decisions, frustrating abdication of design advocacy, and teams that are winning by embracing ethical, humane design.

Nobody's perfect, but we firmly believe that the role of dark patterns in the past is to warn designers in the present.

Get Ready to be Read

Submit the dark patterns you love to hate and check back soon. It’s open mic night and we’re more than happy to call out the shadiest of designs. Design dies in the darkness. Let's be the light we all need to bring about humane, loveable, effective products.