Haute Ecole Albert Jacquard Department

Material Design for the Graphic Artist

Material design is Google’s intended successor to the ideas of “flat design” that become a popular trend in web design starting in 2010s. One of the great things about flat design is that it was unique, it was actually simple to implement, and it created some very clean user interfaces and graphic possibilities for websites. One of the not-so-great things about it is that it doesn’t allow for a great deal of variation when you’re sticking strictly to that aesthetic. There are only so many ways to assemble your flat squares, circles, and rectangles before the sheer amount of sites starts to horse shoe into the dangers of homogenous appearances.

Material Design for the Graphic Artist

Google’s spin on the flat aesthetic provides some course corrections with 3D elements and animation potential that graphic designers may find to be refreshing, particularly for an idea that hasn’t necessarily lost its appeal, only its room to expand. With material design, Google’s train of thought seems to be focused on the idea of shadows, moveable elements that maintain an image’s composition, and the possibilities of pseudo-3D planes to simulate surfaces like paper, stone, and glass. A step further than flat design, Material Design’s still a very new, and very interesting, approach to graphic and web design, but it shows a lot of promise for designers that are interested in an aesthetic that stands apart from the crowd.

  • Lighting plays a big role in how well material design meshes with the overall look of a site’s layout. It’s the shadowing, and the perspective that light can provide, that can really give the flat design elements of a material approach their unique look. As a graphic designer, however, you may also greatly appreciate the ability to maintain those perspectives in some very easy to construct animations, which carry on the dimensions of a shadow throughout a motion. One example would be a flat square seen from an isometric perspective raising up, or lowering down, and the shadow following the motion appropriately.
  • Surfaces and “3D” looks also have their place, even if Material Design often takes after the more minimalist “flat design” aesthetic. With Google’s Material Design incorporated into your layout, you could find elements like moveable posters, break-outs with expanding and collapsing menus, and rotating elements on mouse over are all possible, and stylishly integrated with clean lines.
  • A “touch friendly” approach. With the use of HTML5, a standard which is available on more platforms than Flash as far as mobile devices are concerned, you also have the ability to make interactive images that can be useful for mobile browsers that could have limited visual real estate. With Material Design, you could potentially make a more “app-like” presentation that maintains its compact nature, while allowing you to create graphics or design an entire website user interface that’s functional for desktop users as well.
Material Design for the Graphic Artist

To learn more about Material Design, just head over to Google’s introduction to the subject.