Attempting to define Material Design presents a unique challenge for most people, myself included. The Material Design language has been with us for the better part of four years with the release of Google’s Lollipop and apparently, was completely experimental in the beginning. The beautiful language has seen praise from designers and technologists alike for its minimalistic nature and objective- it aspires to unite Google’s expansive product line under a rich set of design styles and principles. One password, one design, all of Google.
The language’s visual details are delightful. Interfaces are three-dimensional constructions, consisting of layers of components that appear to be physical in nature. These visual details, the use of bright colours, large images, and depth, or Paradigmatic Underpinnings and they are refreshingly new.
The Interface Is The Brand
Our experiences with google’s products are centered around the interaction with interfaces. Even though the medium may differ on the matter spectrum from metal alloys, glass to plastic, the experiences involve significantly more interactions with the soft technology- the stuff manifest in pixels. While some hardware is outstanding and gorgeous, it is these pixels that create our experiences and perception of the brands behind them, therefore, those experiences are the brand.
It seems to me that material design achieves more than just creating order- it creates purpose and meaning. It represents the sensory expression of Google’s brand, giving something we use daily an impressive and recognisable identity. It has undoubtedly become the only real threat to Apple’s apparent monopoly on sublime user experiences, and with the development of Google Fuchsia, this expression is effectively extended.
Design Is Alive
Unless you are some sort of unicorn, if you are a software developer, you have a propensity to ruin UI. Most developers subscribe to the notion that they’ll just slap together a few oddly placed objects and assaulting colours on the front end to test a program's functionality, only to then begin the design it at a later stage. Nothing could be worse. The creative process is a journey, not a destination, maintaining inspiration is notoriously difficult. The opposite of good design isn’t temporary features or ‘no design’: The opposite of good design is bad design. A brand can be built or ruined by the details of the user’s experience. There are no pixels too small to pay attention to, not even on a Retina scale.
The Evolution of Google's Design
With careful consideration, you would’ve been able to identify Google’s shift from the dull and insipid design of the past since 2011 when Gmail was redesigned with flatter buttons and a lot of white margins.
The following year saw layered ‘cards’ and well-designed typographic hierarchies with the release of Google Now. White space margins were beginning to shape the theme of Material Design at this point.
All these updates point to a design language dictum that led to the Material Design we enjoy using today. From an outside perspective, it seems it is the result of the purposeful process. It begs to question how the Material Design of 2017 is going to influence the future of the design language.
Google’s achievement of a singular, recognisable visual aesthetic across all its product offerings no matter how disparate in nature and function. Modest updates to legacy systems with existing users, stale code, and competing for business interests- can prove impossibly difficult.
Material Design can’t have been easy, from conception to implementation for Google, but is proof that good design trumps whatever challenge software companies may face with legacy products.
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