If you landed on this webpage, you most likely have heard about Material Design. Yet, only a handful of people have heard about Material You, an updated version more in line with users’ current needs.
Material You is designed to be more natural, intuitive, and attractive. Yet, surprisingly, designers and UI/UX experts haven’t paid too much attention, whether that’s due to the strange times we live in, the Core Web Vitals, or other factors.
Material Design is here to stay, and you should have a solid grasp on it. This guide is a recap of the Material Design development, its core principles, and how it will evolve in the near future.
Material You is just one of many updates to come, making Material Design a working solution for designers.
What is Material Design
Material is a design system created and maintained by Google experts. Its main aim is to help designers build user-friendly digital experiences.
Material Design was developed with the needs of mobile users in mind. However, it’s not limited to Android- it’s a design system for sites and web apps, too. Back in 2014, mobile browsing gained serious traction, and it was clear that the number of mobile users would surpass the number of desktop users.
Skeuomorphism– the design system concept of making interface items resemble real-world objects- was nearly incompatible with the small screens of smartphones and was abandoned in favor of flat design.
While skeuomorphism couldn’t properly display high-leveled details, flat Design’s extreme simplicity goes hand in hand with various display sizes. As a result, designers and users happily embraced flat Design.
Material Design takes ideas from both skeuomorphism and flat design. It started as a design guide for Google services, and step-by-step became generally adopted.
You may be tempted to believe that a new design system will be coming to replace Material Design. While making predictions is beyond the scope of the post, I think that Material Design is here to stay for many years.
The biggest argument in favor of Material Design’s long life is its perpetual evolution. It manages to maintain a perfect balance between unchangeable core principles and the evolving needs of its users.
Let’s explore the Material Design principles and how designers craft digital products based on this system.
Material Design Principles
Google created a complex, concise, and synthetic guide to learn Material Design. Anyone willing to learn the basics should study each and every page of this guide. Three principles are at the roots of Material Design:
- Material is the Metaphor. In other words, Material Design takes inspiration from reality but does not mimic it. Lights, shadows, elevation, textures, and animations are elements to create functional designs.
- Bold, Graphic, Intentional. Material Design heavily relies on print design. Elements like typography, grids, colors, and images are capital items in the Material universe.
- Motion Provides Meaning. Motion is natural, so it should be included in the crafting of websites. It provides meaning because people are accustomed to it. Rather than explaining the meaning of a crafted experience, motion is natural and meaningful.
These are the pillars of Material Design, and it’s hard to believe that they will change in the future. But, conversely, a fixed system is a perfect recipe to annoy the users. A design system should resolve the pain points of users, or another system will replace it.
The team behind Material Design knows this and acts appropriately. It has had two major update releases since 2014, and designers permanently work on updating it to satisfy the evolving needs of Internet users.
Past, Present, and Future
Naturally, all Google products and services have embraced Material Design since its release. Step-by-step, Fortune 500 companies, and startups alike have adopted this system and contributed to its evolution.
However, Material Design didn’t allow designers a high level of freedom in its early phase. Many Design works looked similar because of the Material restrictions, which frustrated both users and designers.
Google released a major update in May 2018, with the primary purpose of providing more customization options, and resolving the complaints of many designers. Material Theming was also introduced, and it was a step further by providing more options to the designers.
Material Design can’t survive unless it’s flexible and adaptive. Consequently, Google announced at its annual conference, Google I/O, in May 2021 that Material Design has been updated to serve the designers and users better.
It not only allows more styling options, but users’ comfort has become its number one priority. Material designers will have more possibilities to conceive personalized experiences in the near future.
The more personalized a digital experience, the more comfortable the users are with it. Besides added comfort, the Material Design update strives to resolve the problem with large screens. The apps and sites based on Material should provide the same great experience by adapting to screen size.
Finally, the animations and movement effects will look more natural and spiritual. You’d better watch this video for a complete look at the new Material improvements.
Material Design Foundation
You need a clear understanding of three crucial aspects to become a real expert in Material Design: the core principles, the foundation, and the components.
You should adhere to the core principles mentioned above and constantly keep them in mind while building web experiences. The foundation is a set of actionable recommendations to follow for building excellent apps and sites. It covers everything you need through the design process.
This guide only scratches the surface, but the Material Design official guide contains more detailed information.
Material Foundation is similar to a collection of good practices for designers. It delves into layout, navigation, typography, shape, motion, interaction, and communication. The explanations are concise and straightforward so that you will understand all the concepts behind this design system.
For instance, the color section is what a designer needs to know to play with colors while sticking to the Material approach. It includes suggestions for choosing the proper color combination and how to create a working contrast between elements.
Moreover, you learn how to select suitable colors for dark and light themes.
Material Design Components
By now, you have a clear understanding of the core principles and the foundation. The last important aspect is the components- the building blocks used to create user interfaces.
These components are for Android, iOS, web, and Flutter. Banners, buttons, lists, menus, sliders, text fields, and tooltips are only a few of the components.
Buttons are everywhere. These are natural interactions between users and interfaces on mobile, web, or desktop apps. Material Design documentation treats this subject throughout. It starts with the usage and anatomy of a button.
Next, you learn more about placement, hierarchy, and behavior. The types of buttons are text, outlined, contained, and toggle; each of them is separately presented for you to learn more.
All the components are presented similarly, so specializing in Material Components is a real pleasure.
Sharpen Your Knowledge
Google knows that the success of Material relies on the quality of resources provided to learn this system. Luckily, you have plenty of quality resources to learn Material. Developer tutorials and Github repos are available on the Material Design website.
Some tutorials are simple, while others are pretty complex. The Resources section is another place where you can find tutorials and tools to create cool digital products based on Material Design.
Over to You
Material Design is a design system that is here to stay for many years. Taking into account that a huge army of Google employees works permanently to improve it, Material will continue to be the number one option for designers.
It’s a good idea to spend some time learning Material Design. Even as a coder or content creator, it will help better your understanding of the designers’ perspectives.
Material is a simple concept, but it’s not simple to learn it. This guide only gives you some strategic insights to start learning Material. There is a long journey ahead to becoming a genuine expert in this area.