Walker Art Center Interviews Google Design

Cover for Google SPAN Reader

Walker art director Emmet Byrne interviews Rob Giampietro and Amber Bravo, part of the team responsible for Material Design. Their comments on that design language are worth reading:

Material Design is an open-source product and we treat it as such with regular updates and improvements that we share widely. On our team, designers and engineers work very closely together to build, and, perhaps even more crucially, maintain the system and services we develop. That’s a hallmark of our work at Google Design—the fact that we’re lead by design and engineering in equal measure. We’ve created a unique platform for sharing our work and the work of other design teams across Google, but it’s always geared toward the perspective of a team of people who are excited to polish and push the boundaries of design and engineering. We mentioned our mission earlier: to support designers and developers both internally and externally to Google. So part of our editorial and educational imperative is to share Google’s process and thinking with the design world around important topics like design tools or identity systems, and, just as significantly, we want to listen, learn, and respond to what the design world is talking and thinking about and bring the best of those ideas back into the company to power it and make all of our work better. Google is a technology organization, but, increasingly, and especially with the formation of Google Design, it understands itself to be a cultural organization as well.

This conforms to what I find interesting about Material Design: I’m less impressed by Google’s construction of a comprehensive aesthetic (although it is quite attractive) than by Google’s development of an expansive design culture. Material maintains a very tricky balance between establishing dicta and engendering participation in a conversation with its users—designers and developers—about design. It’s not always a successful balance (by necessity it’s far more prescriptive than iOS’s design language, and the results are more uniform and less innovative) but it’s still remarkable for having created an ecosystem of independent practitioners who are invested in growing and evolving the system.

Read the full interview, which goes into depth on the remarkable book of design-related essays that the team produced for its recent SPAN design conferences, at blogs.walkerart.org.