Material world: fluid user interface from Google

Published:  June 29, 2014
Lucy Waddington

In an effort to make everyday interactions with technology more seamless, coherent and cohesive, Google showcased the upcoming “L” version of their operating system at Google I/O 2014. Their newest design vision, Material Design, will work to string together existing web properties in order to create a unified visual experience across all devices and platforms.

With material as a metaphor, Google aspire to join the “theory of a rationalised space and a system of motion.” Explaining that material is “grounded in tactile reality, inspired by our study of paper and ink, yet open to imagination and magic.” To some, this may sound like a swathe of holistic jargon, but in fact this refined aesthetic vision is somewhat profound. We no longer wish to be aware of our interaction with technology — craving an interface that is so intuitive, we barely notice it.

Block colours and drop shadows aplenty, “surfaces and edges provide visual cues that are grounded in our experience of reality. The use of familiar tactile attributes speaks to primal parts of our brains and helps us quickly understand affordances.” Through dimensionality, “the fundamentals of light, surface and movement are key to conveying how objects interact. Realistic lighting shows seams, divides space and indicates moving parts.”

A single adaptive design will allow for an overarching system that organises interactions and space, with each view tailored to a specific device, the “colours, iconography, hierarchy, and spatial relationships remain constant.” Dynamic and bold in order to create meaning and focus, the  “deliberate colour choices, edge-to-edge-imagery, large scale typography and intentional white space create immersion and clarity.”

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Focusing on fluid user interface design, “the primary actions are inflection points that transform the whole design. Their emphasis makes core functionality immediately apparent and provides waypoints for the user.” With a user-centric focus, “changes in the interface derive their energy from user actions. Motion that cascades from touch respects and reinforces the user as the prime mover.”

With a collection of insights on a single Google Design page, visitors can explore the guidelines, archives and a series of Design Minutes — snippet interviews with key members of the design team about briefs, approach and execution — in a collated and curated space. Access to their Digital Creative Guidebook, as well as opportunities for students and jobs is also available.

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