Material Design Helping visual designers deliver better functionality?

Thursday, 27th August 2015

Material Design| also codenamed Quantum Paper| is a design language developed by Google

Material Design, also codenamed ‘Quantum Paper’, is a design language developed by Google attempting to bring ‘a standard’ and ‘an order’ to Google’s design methods.

As explained by Matías Duarte (Google VP of design): “Unlike real paper, our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.”

The design standard therefore is based on a concept of real world tangible items and formats, but produced within the flexibility that cyberspace can not only offer but also demands of it’s designers. The standard was developed with the Android operating system front of mind, and the desire to provide a coherent and consistent experience across devices and platforms. It is designed to flow through the movement of grid based layouts – scaling comfortably and cleanly from small to large screens across multiple platforms – phone to tablet to desktop.

The International typography style also known as Swiss TypographyThe initial impact of the look and feel has echoes of the International typography style also known as Swiss style. Developed in the 50’s, this style of graphic design emphasised cleanliness, readability, and objectivity, making strong use of grid layouts. The bold shapes and colours with deliberate arrangement and simple, clear messaging of Material Design are reminiscent of a similar ethos.

The apps, tools and elements on our virtual screen worlds have been slowly growing, refining and building up to this. Bringing such a standard to online physics, visual presence and it’s animation I would certainly deem important to assist the development of websites and applications, reduce user anxiety and make apps easier, more cost effective to produce, and more intuitive to use. Design, usability, and technology help each other to advance hand in hand. Design techniques and trends driving tech, and tech apps and software helping and aiding design creativity and its efficiency. But are our design objectives now being overtly driven by the technology, rather than our creativity influencing and improving the users’ experience of the technology?

Quantum Paper exampleAs a web designer, I am curious to see whether Material Design will restrict some of the more elaborate free design and illustrative flare employed by our trade? For print, paper and tangible material media it is really less of an issue; but translating the complexity from thought and sketch onto fluid platforms on the web will by necessity be on a ‘project by project’ basis.

Is this a temporary trend that lends itself to function as the higher form of design, with aesthetic sensibilities relegated to the supporting role? Or will designers embrace the challenge and develop their form to enhance the function and objectivity that Material Design offers to the User Experience? Only time will tell, but do let me know your thoughts and predictions!

Quantum paper simple elements

Further reading:

Google’s brief intro on Material Design