Google Material Design

At last week’s Google I/O 2014 Developers Conference, Google rolled out a lot of new tech, including new wearables and new phones. They also released one of the most exciting documents to come out of a tech conference in some time – the guidelines for Material Design.

Material Design is Google’s new design language for its three biggest platforms: Android, Chrome OS and the Chrome browser. While we don’t write a whole lot about Google here on the Aptera blog, we are constantly working to stay on top of the design trends in the mobile and web worlds. Material Design has the potential to be enough of a shakeup that we’d be insane not to talk about it.

Google hasn’t said it explicitly, but Material Design sure seems like an attempt to shift the way people talk about design at the company, and on Android specifically. For years, the prevailing idea has been that Apple is the company obsessed with the little details. Google can’t do anything about Apple’s practices, but one look at Google’s new documentation shows an attention to detail that’s downright impressive.

Material Design includes a focus on animation, style, layout, patterns and usability. Each of those categories gets broken down into details that developers and designers can put to use, including typography and colors, metrics and keylines for layouts, and a common look for buttons throughout the three platforms. There’s a ton of information there, and it’s really worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

This is all great news if you’re into design (or just seeing the internet and apps look better than they have before), but there’s a lesson to be taken away from Google’s Material Design, no matter what field your company is in.

There’s a ton of detail in Material Design, and if people start adopting it, it’s that detail that’s going to make Google’s intentions come to life. They’re doing more than just saying, “Um, we’d like it if you design better, please” – they’re giving explicit, concrete instructions on what that looks like.

We run into companies all the time that know what “their style” is, but have a really hard time actually communicating it. Your copywriters think it’s one thing, the guy running the front desk thinks it’s something else entirely. It’s possible that all your external communication is using the same style and branding, but your internal documents might be all over the place, and the chances are that’s driving at least one person up a wall.

Fewer companies are willing to develop and institute the same kind of design guidelines that Google’s just rolled out. Your company probably isn’t thinking about style on the same giant scale Google is, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it entirely.

You know that old box of stationary? Not the new stuff, the leftovers from the last batch that Jim in accounting keeps using? Throw that away. Pick a font for headings, two fonts for body text, decide what your margins are going to be, and then start making sure everyone keeps using them.

Decide if you’re using the Oxford comma, make a call on which version of your logo goes in which place, and then create a document on your server where all that lives. Start calling out the people who are using it wrong, and rewarding the people who are using it correctly.

It seems a little petty (especially when you first start) but if the rise of Apple and the general direction of the internet in the past few years has taught us anything, it’s that design and attention to detail matters. Google’s using Material Design to try and change the way Android and the web looks. What does your company look like?