At Google I/O in June 2014, Google introduced their new design language simply named Material Design. This was Google’s first standardised iteration of what it believes to be their new design metaphor – by presenting their user interfaces as concise, structured and adaptive in every possible way.
It could be argued that until Material Design was introduced, Google was missing the mark on what constitutes “good design”.
Growth within Google and the vast array of services they provide – search, apps, operation systems, websites and productivity software to name a few, it was realised that presenting user interfaces and user interaction behind these services was becoming increasingly unstructured and incoherent. There was no baseline for what Google’s “design language” was.
Google introduced three key principles with Material Design:
1. Material is the metaphor – “A material metaphor is the unifying theory of a rationalized space and a system of motion. The material is grounded in tactile reality, inspired by the study of paper and ink, yet technologically advanced and open to imagination and magic.”
2. Bold, graphic, intentional – “The foundational elements of print-based design – typography, grids, space, scale, color, and use of imagery – guide visual treatments. These elements do far more than please the eye. They create hierarchy, meaning, and focus.”
3. Motion provides meaning – “Motion respects and reinforces the user as the prime mover. Primary user actions are inflection points that initiate motion, transforming the whole design.”
With this came a complete and ongoing overhaul of everything Google – Search, Google Maps, Android, Gmail, Google Play, Google Music and so on. The idea was to ensure the design principles flowed across all media, services and all platforms – from oversized smart TV’s down to smart watches.
It has now been eight months since Material Design was introduced. Slowly but surely, Material Design is finding its way into every Google service – and it’s a truly beautiful thing. Animation and interaction in a 3D space plays a hugely important role in context and unity. Surfaces, shadows and reusable layout elements help guide the user through the design.
Jumping into any app or service that now utilises Material Design, it’s apparent that as the user learns to interact with the interface, the more comfortable the user becomes with every aspect of any Google interface presented to them. The “design language” is understood.
The most beneficial thing about Material Design is that regardless of the medium, Google now has standards in place to ensure the users journey and understanding of the interface is put first and foremost. User-centered design.
Google as a powerhouse brand can only improve how everyone interacts with their services. From everyday end users to user interface designers, interaction designers and app developers. Having these guidelines and this language in place allows anyone to feel comfortable in using their products.
Design as a language pushes the boundary of what user interaction is capable of. A spoken language can be learnt and understood, much in the same way a user-centered design language can be integrated into our everyday lives.
Material Design in 2015 is shaping up to continue its growth in integrating itself into the technology and everyday interactions we have with our digital products. The relationship we have with “good design” becomes second nature, and Material Design from Google aims to continue the push into a more natural interaction between man and machine.
Aaron Lepik is an Interactive Developer at BCM