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Material Design: What’s In It for Designers?

  • By Hazel Lee
  • 17, August 2015
  • UX / UI
  • By Hazel Lee
  • 17, August 2015
  • UX / UI

There have been a lot of talks & mentions about Google’s Material Design on the Internet lately. If you’re looking up on Android 5.0 Lollipop updates, then you may have encountered the term “Material Design”. 

Just a little over a year ago on June 25th, 2014 Android Lead Designer Matias Duarte  announced Google’s latest version of mobile IO called Material Design


What Is Material Design?

It is a design language whereby all the UI elements like buttons, icons and themes are constructed to behave according to Google’s Material Design Guidelines. The Guideline is created to guide UI Developers and Designers to build neat and unified websites or apps using motion and animation as a core design principle, applicable across all of Google’s platforms.

For web designers, it’s like Bootstrap with strict style guides but has a more unified and convenient system.


What’s In Store In The Guidelines?

In the real world, a material is solid and can come in many different shapes when you look at it head-on. While “material” in a digital world looks almost flat, it does have some depth to it. Because “material” has depth, it can change shape, grow and can be moved or rotated in any axis. Hence, two pieces of “material” cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Therefore, one piece must be above the other (the Card concept).

Using the above philosophy, these set of Guidelines would enable human interactions on a device feel more natural. Property Guidelines like Material Palette allows every app you see on your phone or tablet to have a unique visual identity. It even has advice for developers on how to make their apps accessible for users with disabilities. 


More Defined

The digestible explanations of the fundamentals of design like grid systems, typography and colour theory made it simple for even a non-designer to understand and how to apply them. They can now design a Material Design app in a snap. But with the specific guidelines in place, I wonder how much freedom we can have in terms of creativity when designing apps or even websites with Material Design.


Should I Dive Into It?

I’ve read many reviews by UX and App Designers who have recently experimented with Material Design. Majority of them expressed their love for Google’s latest IO Language. After reading the guidelines myself, I can see why designers are so attracted to it. 

Google is genius and have successfully made a game-changing attempt by rolling out Material Design to the masses. Previously, Android has been plagued by design inconsistencies, lack of documentation and app/web interface issues. Material Design now solved all of that. How you wonder? Well, with this general rule of thumb: They have finally understood what user wants – visual feedback.

One thing’s for sure. Material Design is worth experimenting with. However as a designer myself, I would not recommend that we sing praises without truly considering a few aspects first.

If you’re looking to build a brand that will look and feel unique rather than Google’s, there are a few things that you want to consider before adding Material Design into the mix. Ask yourself some WH questions such as:

  1. What do your clients or customers want in a product?
  2. What are the goals you are trying to accomplish with the design of the new product?
  3. How and when will it be used?

Put up your findings and identify what makes a unique brand compared to Google’s Material Design. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel though, but knowing how your product communicates with your customers in terms of visual and verbal identity should be the core principal of brand building.


Should I Make The Switch If I’m Currently on Apple’s iOS Platform?

You can try mixing and matching various elements from the two languages into your app and interface design. However, according to freelance UI Designer Jason Zigrino during a recent discussion he had with the Material Design Community, he advised that we should first focus on the principles rather than the visual elements of Material Design. Principles like Material Design’s motion UI design can be used as inspiration for designing interactions and movement in iOS apps. 

He stresses that it is important for iOS Designers and Developers to stay true to the operation system’s nature. Applying too much Material Design elements into an iOS app could cause great confusion to users.


The Future of Material Design

It’s just a matter of time that we will witness more and more UX and App Designers adapting and adjusting their apps to fit Google’s Material Design on Android and iOS platforms. If Google continues their effort to push Material Design into their products, then its popularity will only keep growing. 

Material Design was written with the web, smartphones, tablets and wearables in mind. But Google will definitely go further than that. The Material Design Guidelines already has a section updated with specs that can be applied to television, automobile dashboards and even Google Cardboard, allowing designers to create Material VR apps

I can conclude that Material Design is here to stay. People get excited every time a new app has Material Design features in it. For the Tech Giant themselves, they see design as never done. You can expect to continue to be updated with more Material Design news as this new IO Language will constantly adapt and change to stay relevant now and into the future.


Further reading:



Hazel Lee

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