The Rise of Material Design and its Paper and Ink Reality
Over the last decade, the digital world has witnessed a paradigm shift in people’s outlook towards design, and it experienced a tenfold increase in its importance. Gradually, but firmly, software bundles ranging from entire operating systems to standalone apps moved on from solid black drop shadows and gradient backgrounds to the clean, minimal and flat design prominent since a few years, and the difference between then and now is colossal, taking years of iterations and countless developments.
The characterless style of the 90s gave way to the skueomporhic era, the twilight of which ran parallel with the modernism and futuristic styles, and in turn, they gave way to where we were last year – the dominant trend of flat design that grew at a surprisingly swift rate. While these infamous styles were leaving their mark on the sands of time, many styles tried to rise to their level, but remained unsuccessful, and thus, when Google demonstrated its own visual language at their annual I/O conference last year, designers and developers everywhere considered it another flare that entered with a flash and burned out quickly. However, with each passing day, that outcome grows less likely. Eight months down the line, Material Design not only continues to burn bright, but its trademark paper-and-ink style has seen an alarming adoption rate, spiking after I/O and still going strong. What makes it so special and different from its predecessors? Here are some of the factors:
Material Design brought with it the concept that a whole world existing within the screens of our devices, a world made up of paper and ink, governed by laws not dissimilar from our own. This ideal consequently gave rise to major defining factors, and brought in a reasoning factor while designing interfaces, in terms of z-index, lighting, shadows, and more. Up until now, designs was governed by laws that did not exist outside of the creator’s mind, and while this allowed for a free rein, it decreased the familiarity between software for the end user, thus degrading the user experience.
The concept of a world within our screens brought about a harmonious existence between interface design and motion design, and for once in history, a set of guidelines for a visual language fielded a subset of guidelines for the way the material in the world moves, the curve of motion when it accelerates or decelerates, and the interpolation of motion. These rules provided a framework for an intuitively realistic and aesthetically pleasing motion across the platform and within the apps.
Until now, native mobile, tablet and desktop experiences were vastly varied, with responsive websites feebly attempting to bridge the gap. Disrupting this space and providing a seamless cross-screen experience required a massive reach, which few companies have. Fortunately, Google did, and with their wide array of services and platforms shifting to Material Design, an increasing number of developers began adopting Material Design.
Despite these three attributes being the frontrunners in Material Design’s campaign of carving its place in history, a lot of little details like ripples, transforming icons, interactive shadows and more, collectively ensure that every aspect of it is perfect and flawless, making it paper-thin, but volumes deep. Does Material Design appeal to you more than any other style? Do the animations and its consistency play a role in this appeal? Let us know in the comments below!