Chris Brummel

Material Change in Google's Material Design

Yesterday’s Google I/O announcements brought me back…

It was 1989 when my parents got our first Mac. My brother and I almost threw a fit after not getting what we wanted: a Commodore Amiga and all the sweet games that came with it. It didn’t take long for me to be won over after grabbing a copy of ResEdit. I would mostly use it to edit the icons and interfaces of the shareware control panels and extensions that I would constantly install until they ran the computer to the brink of bugginess.

The visual cohesiveness between what these independent developers made and the aesthetic of System 6 & 7 was lacking, so the pre-teen version of myself took the task upon him to make sure that poor interfaces would be a thing of the past on our computer. *This* computer will be perfectly uniform. Still using a black and white AppleTalk icon in your shareware extension? I’ll update that for you…

Over the past 25 years I’ve continued using Apple’s products, from the Mac LC to the retina MacBook Pro; from the iPod to the iPhone. I’m not sure if I’ve stuck by them because they align with my sensibility, or because over the course of 25 years I’ve been trained to align with theirs. I consider myself to be far from religious about Apple, but their philosophy has tended to make the most sense to me compared to their competitors.

Every now and then, something in the world of tech catches my eye and makes me pay attention for the same reasons I’ve gravitated toward Apple. The first time was the BeOS. It took over a decade for me to feel that again, but I was strongly rooting for Palm’s WebOS. Matias Duarte took his experience from the HipTop (which was pretty great for it’s time) and used it to turn the WebOS into a fantastic experience. Technical and business constraints held it back, but I was inspired by it’s vision. WebOS has since dropped out of the mobile OS race, and Matias has joined Google to helm the design of their Android OS.

Android has slowly been improving from it’s pretty rough 1.0 to a decent 4.0, but yesterday was the first day that that I felt inspired by a non-Apple OS since 2008. Google released a comprehensive update to their design across mobile, wearables, cars, tv, and the web. They’re calling it Material Design and it’s the first time that Android design can be called nuanced. Detailing everything from animation, typography, color, and more, Google pulls together guidelines so detailed and thoughtful that it’s certain to pull the design quality of their 3rd-party developers into closer competition with iOS’ high-quality 3rd-party design.

Android still has complications around device fragmentation that make me less enthusiastic. The current version of Android is installed on under 15% of devices as of this writing, which makes it difficult for developers to completely abandon the past at this point. But the Android design documentation is a fantastic way to start changing their future. I’ll reserve final judgement until I can actually play with the developer preview, but I’m just excited that I feel inspired again.


Image courtesy of Lance Anderson for Unsplash.

Chris Brummel

Chris Brummel is responsible for overseeing the user experience of L4 products. Chris takes projects from basic requirements, and forms them into fully-realized products, taking each platform's distinct differences into account. Chris has over 20 years of experience in UX/design, starting with the web and switching over to mobile after the iPhone's smartphone revolution in 2007. Since then, Chris has designed award-winning mobile applications that have reached millions of users, including Foursquare for Android.

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