Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, writer, speaker, and author, currently serving as the Creative Director of Maido, and the Co-editor and Creative Director of lifestyle magazine Lagom. Previously, he was the Creative Director of coffee roaster Colonna, the founder of typography magazine-turned-book 8 Faces, and the Creative Director of Typekit (now Adobe Fonts). He’s also an electronic musician, recording as Other Form and releasing on the Berlin-based label Unterwegs.

Google’s Material Design

Posted on 26 June 2014

Article illustration for Google’s Material Design

Amongst the flurry of new releases at yesterday's Google I/O, one stood out to me above all else: the unveiling of the company's ‘Material Design’ visual language. And not just its announcement, but the fact that Google have put the entire documentation online.

The specs are an impressive read to say the least, and with lofty goals. The first:

Create a visual language that synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science.

And the second:

Develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all first-class input methods.

Reading through the documentation, from the detailed guidelines on authentic motion in animation to the rigorous tracking rules for typography, one thing is clear: Google's design has grown up. It's been gaining maturity for some time now (the company's recent iOS apps are a great example), but this feels more significant to me: this feels like a turning point.


When considering mobile operating systems, this could very well be the moment that Android sheds its cheap, iOS-immitating cocoon — by contrast, Apple's Human Interface Guidelines look dated and inelegant — but we're not even just talking about Android here: 'Material Design' represents Google's entire unified design system. And many of the principles outlined in the documentation are universal standards for good design, regardless of the medium. It's great to see Google championing good design.

For the first time ever, I found myself begin to wonder: next time I purchase some hardware, might I consider choosing Google over Apple? For me, personally, that's why this represents a fork in the road.

Hats off, Google.

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