As Steve Jobs once poignantly observed, design is “not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This philosophy holds true in all fields of design, but becomes increasingly important in the digital realm. To address this, companies all over the world are attempting to establish design systems that bridge the physical and digital spaces, allowing them to maintain brand consistency and offer a holistic experience across all mediums.
Many of these systems focus particularly on web and mobile environments, as these mediums are becoming increasingly predominant as the primary touch point between brands and their users. For example, Mailchimp’s “Pattern Library” is a learning library for use by their web and mobile teams. It offers useful guides and examples of how typography, grid systems, forms, lists, animations, and more should all live cohesively in the Mailchimp digital ecosystem. Another great example is Salesforce’s mobile app style guide.
This year, Google took the pattern library one step further and introduced what they call “Material Design.” This system establishes UX and Interaction patterns that unite Google’s many products with a seamless design experience.
There are two main focal points to material design: material and motion. Material refers to static design elements such as typography, color palette and shapes. When designing an interface, one must be logical about the placement of these elements. In the real world, if you place something on top of another, it makes sense that one is on top, the other is on bottom. By referencing these simple laws of physics when designing, we can provide interfaces that users can comprehend, and predict.
Motion refers to the way digital interfaces animate and interact with the user. The laws of physics say that if you throw a ball into the air, it starts fast, slows as it hits its peak, then suddenly falls again. Interfaces should interact the same way. Animations should make sense and be intuitive to the user.
The proper combination of material and motion will create an intuitive and meaningful digital experience. As brands strengthen their digital design systems and guides, they will continue to improve the experience their users have across all mediums. And as users become more familiar and fond of a brand’s digital experience, brand trust and loyalty will increase.