Google’s new design language, material design, makes its debut this week in Lollipop, the latest version of Android. It brings a bright new look to phones and tablets. But to hear Google’s designers explain it, material design is something far more ambitious than a new coat of pixels. By combining relevant rules from the world of graphic design with new ideas about interfaces and input, Google is aiming to establish some best practices for the fledgling field of interactive design at large.
Material design is a few things. It’s a makeover—a “sweeping, well-reasoned, and often beautiful redesign” as we said earlier this year. It’s a new way of understanding user interfaces, in which UI elements get stacked like physical objects in three-dimensional space. And it’s a bid to unify Mountain View’s products across platforms and devices, a modular design language built to scale across not just phones and tablets but also watches, walls, whats-its, and wherever else Google might end up in years to come.
But as Android design guru Matias Duarte makes clear, it’s one more thing—or at least, he hopes it will be. Duarte and his fellow designers at Google see material design as a road map for an emerging discipline. “Material is not just a style but a way of thinking about designing interfaces,” he says, “and we want people to start absorbing that into their practice.”