09 May Material Design: Teaching you to brand like Google?
For a few years, ‘flat’ has been the reigning buzzword in the design world. Clean, sharp lines with little shading or drop shadow paired with simple vectors and plenty of white space have provided a respite from the once popular ‘3D’ look of the early 2000’s. But now, a new, Google-created buzzword is shaking up design blogs across the web: Material Design. Intended to create a unique visual language that will easily translate for Google products across all digital platforms, Material Design is being heralded by many as “Flat 2.0”. But it’s not necessarily the design that is making these bold colors, simple graphics and large typography stand apart from the crowd.
Visually, the difference between ‘flat design’ and Material Design may not be all that noticeable unless you’re a designer. But unlike flat design, Material Design’s purpose extends beyond simply creating a visually appealing design. This streamlined, exacting design style is meant to create a cohesive experience for the end user, much like a set of Brand Standards. However, unlike a conventional set of Brand Standards, Material Design allows for an unprecedented level of creativity within the brand. This creates an exciting range of design that keeps the user engaged while cementing brand recognition. This unique design style and consistency across every program and platform is making their interface more than an interface, it is now a vital part of the company’s brand.
Yes, you can brand like Google.
You may not have the reach or the design team that Google has at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some of the principles Google has introduced with Material Design and apply them to your own marketing efforts.
Balancing form and function isn’t enough in the modern design era. One of the main takeaways from Material Design is that form has become function. Gone are the days of design elements that just look cool, especially in the world of web design. The mainstay of intentional design is a focus on usability. Questions like ‘does every aspect of this page serve a function?’ and ‘is this graphic universally relatable’ should be at the forefront of all design decisions.
A strong set of Branding Standards is key to keeping your marketing team on track and presenting a united brand. However, are those same standards crippling your team’s creativity? Material Design’s standards are, at first glance, extreme. But, that structure is crafted to allow for an unprecedented level of creativity because Google has taken ownership of a specific design style. You may not be ready to develop your company’s own version of Material Design, but by shifting your focus from enforcing a certain set of colors, typefaces and photos, to taking ownership of a certain design style and fostering new ideas within that style, you will be able to emulate the Material Design approach.
If there’s one thing Google understands and capitalizes on better than most, it’s their understanding that consumers are surrounded with advertising and branding efforts 24/7. Audiences have become so desensitized to advertising that flashy design and a catchy tagline is essentially lost on a large portion of them. But, a beautiful, identifiable interface that provides information or services to a user? That will hold their attention in a world where attention spans are rapidly dwindling. You may not be offering email service, or cloud storage like Google, but consider your blogs, social media efforts, newsletters, even your website. How easily can your user find what they’re looking for? How are you reinforcing your brand without a tagline or logo?
Regardless of company size, the lessons learned from Google can be invaluable for staying at the cutting edge of your own industry’s branding!