Material Design has been around for a while now. Over the past three years and a half, we’ve seen a tremendous evolution in the way mobile apps are designed. Many communities have been created around this new design language. Even a large number of websites have taken inspiration from it. Google is also making regular changes to the specification, keeping it adapted to current app usage.
Why is it so popular?
Google already had a design language for Android before Material Design: Holo. It wasn’t as complete, but still was an excellent start for all app creators. In my opinion, the main difference between these two, what explains why MD is so popular, is how Google is pushing it. Holo was made for Android. MD has been created for all platforms, so now, all Google products users see it, even on iOS. And they talk a lot about it.
But now all apps look the same!
Really, do they? The goal of a design language system (DLS) like Material Design is to offer a framework for designers, so they can build their content on a solid foundation. But that’s what MD is, just a foundation. Design goes beyond that.
Now, of course, most developers aren’t designers. That’s a whole different job. And not all of us work with design teams. Devs tend to strictly follow the specifications, and don’t go beyond it. That’s how we end up with a lot of apps which aren’t very imaginative design-wise.
So what? Is that a real issue? I don’t think so. Would you rather go back to the pre-holo time? Before MD, most app developers I knew didn’t use margins for their layout. Now, they do. Developers use cards, FABs, colors!
Do these things are misused? Yes. Do developers, designers and companies sometimes create monsters? Yes. Is MD often mistreated, tortured, deformed? Yes. But again, it’s way better than it was before. Design has made it to the world of app developers. For good.
But this kills designers’ creativity!
It can, but I don’t think it happens that often, especially if you’re aware of what a DLS is about. As pointed out in this article from Hayden Bleasel,
“Good design systems are catalysts for consistency, not an immutable list of commandments.”.
I think it’s a pretty good summary. What it brings is a way to help designers building a coherent product experience across features and platforms. Then, designers can use these blocks to build something truly unique, but still consistent. Honestly, just look at all the amazing creations uploaded daily on UpLabs, and look back at Android 2.x apps. Do you think creativity has been killed here?
Is Material Design going to be there forever?
Probably not. It’s going to get old at some point, probably sooner than later. But what’s very interesting with MD is that it continues to evolve, while still respecting its core principles. Cards, drawers, FABs, all of this can disappear. As long as the core rules are applied, it’s still Material Design, just like Apple human guidelines are still human guidelines, flat design or not.