Making Digital Goodness Tangible, With Material Design

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If you haven’t heard already, Harlo is a digitally-focused design studio with a passion for inspiring user experiences. We love all things web, digital, and design, which means we are always keeping our ear to the ground for new design languages and trends. When we find them we dive in head first, learning everything we can. That’s exactly what we did with Material Design when it was first released in 2014, and boy has it been fun.

Paper, Magic, And Material Design

Introduced by Google in 2014, Material Design is a universal design language for Android apps. However, Material Design has changed significantly since it’s release. It’s now available for both web and iOS apps, but more importantly, it has become more customizable and developer friendly. What was once undeniably “Googley” is now a practical choice for designers and brands across the web.

Matias Duarte, the head of the Material Design group at Google, described Material Design in 2014 as “a sufficiently advanced form of paper as to be indistinguishable from magic.” Honestly, It’s hard not to roll your eyes a bit at that description. It’s so Silicon Valley, so Google, so innovative. But looking back on Material Design now, the description fits. For the most part.

The big idea behind Material Design was to give physicality to software. As humans, we’re hardwired to interact with things as objects, so our digital experiences reflect that instinct. Google developers began to consider how elements of a page interact with one another in a physical nature, from a hierarchy of depths to animations. The truth is that we do interact with web pages beyond just what we see. We tap, swipe, scroll, and pinch. These are physical interactions that didn’t transfer to digital before Material Design.

Material Design Isn’t Just For Google, Anymore

Even if you’ve never heard of Material Design you’ve definitely seen it. As the visual language of Google it has been integrated into nearly every tool and application they’ve created. And if it’s not already, it will be soon. Anyone who uses Gmail — over a billion people around the world — will have noticed the design changes, most recently in the mobile app.

Material Design is so synonymous with Google at this point that it’s hard to even remember what the companies branding was like before. Sleek, simple, intuitive, and bold is what we think about when we think about the Google brand and its Material Design matches those qualities perfectly. Material Design is all about elements that are self-explanatory. Buttons that look like buttons, interactions that are moved by people, a consistency that allows for discovery.

The problem is, the designers at Google didn’t want Material Design to be, as Nathan Sinsabaugh puts it, “a sensory expression of Google’s brand. What they wanted was to create a framework for the future of web design. That’s why Google has continued to iterate what Material Design is, making it more customizable for designers and developers. Duarte explains the next generation of Material Design as “a design system for making design systems.”

Is Material Design Right For Your Website or Brand?

So, now that Material Design can be creatively applied without resembling a Google product, does that mean it’s right for your project? The answer, as usual, is that it depends.

Here at Harlo, we pride ourselves on always being able to turn client requests in stunning results. If you’re specifically looking for what Material Design has to offer then we’re happy to give it to you. And it does have a lot to offer! But we also want to make sure you get a digital product that makes sense for both your functionality and your brand.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some pros and cons of Material Design:

Pros

  • A clean and consistent look users will recognize.
  • Page elements that are intuitive and feel real.
  • Quick development time.

Cons

  • It’s a framework specifically designed with constraints.
  • Certain aspects still feel very “Googley”.
  • Limits customization and complexity.

Whether or not Material Design and development is right for your project, it can teach you important lessons in how to approach the digital experience. User experience is key, good design is constantly evolving, and there’s always room for improvement. Material Design, and Google for that matter, understand these things and execute them impeccably.

Material Design may have started as “magic paper” but it has evolved into so much more. It is a framework and approach. As the now describe it themselves, “a visual language that synthesizes the classic principles of good design with the innovation of technology and science.” We feel like that description gets a little more to the point, but look forward to what they come up with next.

If you want to know more about our creative digital services feel free to contact us here: winhearts@harlointeractive.com

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