There has been a lot of hubba and excitement about Google’s Material Design over the past year and to many it conjures up visions of bold abstract wallpapers to be used on your phone, Chromebook, or other Android device.
Material Design was born with the introduction of Android Lollipop back in November of 2014 after years of gestation under the code name of Quantum Paper. Google promised to apply this design language as a brand across all of its products.
You may remember the hints of the coming change in 2011 when Gmail was redesigned with flatter buttons and generous margins and white space. The design changes continued in 2012 when “Google Now” introduced layered “cards” with lots of white space and well-designed typographic hierarchies.
So what is a design language? A Design language is a set of rules which directs how an application looks and performs. For example, developers may be directed to use specific icons, colors, and buttons. In addition, they may be directed to use consistent actions (e.g. home button/icon always loads a specific page). These rules may also apply to other events such as error reporting. The reward for following these guidelines is consistency and a better user experience.
What is Material Design
If Material Design is a design language, how does that work?
It’s Not That Easy
As a developer in the Google ecosystem, the following are the Material Design subject areas or guidelines you need to be familiar with as your application architecture is decided and the code is written.
- Material Properties
- Elevation & Shadows
- Material motion
- Duration & easing
- Transforming material
- Creative Customization
- Units & measurements
- Metrics & keylines
- Responsive UI
- Split Screens
- Bottom navigation
- Bottom sheets
- Buttons: Floating Action Button
- Data tables
- Expansion panels
- Grid lists
- Lists: Controls
- Progress & activity
- Selection controls
- Snackbars & toasts
- Text fields
- Confirmation & acknowledgements
- Data formats
- Empty states
- Help & feedback
- Launch screens
- Loading images
- Navigation drawer
- Navigation transitions
- Scrolling techniques
- Swipe to refresh
- Platform adaption
- Color palettes
- Layout templates
- Roboto & Noto fonts
- Sticker sheets & icons
Getting it right goes a long way to creating a positive user experience.
Importance to Google
Consider the following points about Material Design.
- It touches everything Google creates
- It’s not done
- It’s evolutionary
- It’s catching on
Jason Zigrino, a talented iOS designer, responded to the following questions about Material Design and iOS.
Do you think Material Design will influence the way we design and develop iOS apps in the future?
Absolutely. The fundamental holistic views of Material Design can be applied and intelligently incorporated across all devices and interfaces. However, this certainly does not mean that all interfaces should look exactly alike.
Would you recommend designers and developers to incorporate elements in iOS apps?
Various elements both visual and underline mechanics could certainly be incorporated into iOS apps. However, it is important to stay true to the operating systems nature. Forcing a user to adapt or take on new sets of habits within a an app could cause great confusion. It is important to intelligently incorporate various elements of Material Design but it is imperative not to confuse or undermine the user in the process.
When it comes to Material Design and incorporating it within iOS, I focus less on the visual elements and instead focus on the principles. The root of Material Design’s purpose is what’s most important, unlike the visuals which could and most likely grow out of style over time. For me the focus is on UI animation as a way of communicating with the user. UI animation should be as important as any other element like color or buttons. As our interactions with mobile and web interfaces become more complex as well as as less tactile (voice interaction for example) it is imperative to properly guide the user in and out of their interactions.
Do you think Material Design is just a trend?
I would have to say that all design, given enough time, becomes a trend or just another fad. However, when we look at the fundamentals of design there are elements that stand the test of time. Material Design was to be a truly digital native design language adapting with the times. So Material Design as we know it today, may not look the same two years down the road. Think of Material Design as a living organism, constantly adapting and changing to its environment in order to survive.
To summarize, the significance of Material Design can not be understated as it defines the Google user experience as owners of Google devices we live with daily.