Google’s material design—more than meets the eye.
Material design is Google’s (semi-new) visual language. It's grounded in the classical principles of good design while leveraging the power of cutting-edge technology and science to create magical user experiences. Check out the full guide here as well as the cool video below.
Material design solves some difficult design problems:
- Developers and UI/UX/Motion/Visual Designers all need a solid yet flexible guide to follow when creating or improving their digital products. The guide should help create consistency yet allow room for creativity in order to solve unique challenges. Check.
- The guide must work for every screen—desktop, tablet, smartphone, smart watch, television, and everything else we use today... and may use tomorrow. Check.
- It must be a living and breathing guide that’s constantly evolving as the digital and physical worlds evolve. Check.
- The guide should be easy to understand and apply so everyone in your organization can be a brand/UX champion. Check.
The beauty of material design is that it’s born out of a metaphor that’s been understood for thousands of years—”paper and ink.” Content is elegantly laid out on cards of “material” that look and behave like paper. The only caveat is that the material can move, morph and change colors to lead the user through seamless interactions. Colorful ink is applied with the intention to make it easy (and enjoyable) for the user to get around. The overall experience feels natural and predictable which is the mission of every good user interface.
I believe that design has true power. Design can change the world for the better, make the complex simple, and help connect humanity in new ways. For example, take a look at New York City’s subway transportation graphics by Vignelli Associates or Max Miedinger's iconic font, Helvetica—good design makes life better.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They’ve done an amazing job with this since their birth in 1998. However, they haven’t really used design to it’s full potential to help with the second part of their mission “make it (the world’s info) universally accessible and useful.” Part of what makes something accessible and useful is excellent UX/UI/visual design. I believe material design helps Google take a huge leap forward. The bold design not only looks better visually but helps the user move around much easier. Subtle movements and smart transitions help guide the user while putting her in the driver's seat. If she taps a play button, it'll morph into the control panel so there’s a smooth flow from one action to the next. Material design feels simple and effortless, yet powerful. This bold and colorful visual language perfectly matches Google's bold and colorful logo. It looks like their design repertoire is catching up with their technology brilliance which is a beautiful thing.
A popular brand strength test is to cover the company's logo and see if you can identify what brand you’re looking at based off of the visual language. If you cover the logo on a Burberry or Louis Vuitton purse, you’ll still be able to recognize the brand. As material design spreads throughout Google, it will help make the brand recognizable based off of the merit of it’s visual language rather than just it’s logo. Material design's principles and visual flavor are ownable and distinct to Google the same way the plaid pattern is distinct to Burberry.
There's more substance to Google's material design than meets the eye. This visual language gives Google more soul and has the potential of becoming iconic. Every company can benefit from stronger branding, even a huge company like Google.
What do you think about Google's material design? Is it the best thing since sliced bread or is it just an overly-hyped style guide?