Rhythms Appear

Material sought to flex and bend the design system to build unexpected rhythms without sacrificing steady values like consistency and accessibility.

Ambient music plays as artists work in a sculpture studio, chiseling, scraping, and buffing.

A voice says, “I didn’t get into design to make things boring. Design is all about sweating the details. It kills me when the little stuff doesn’t line up. But does everything have to be exactly the same?”

Five people wear identical shirts. Replicas of a midcentury modern chair are arranged in a grid. Dozens of indistinguishable cars are parked in a lot. The same suburban house is repeated for blocks.

The voice continues, “Every doorknob isn’t the same, but people still manage to get in and out of all sorts of rooms. Right?”

Several very different doors appear.

“Similarly,” the voice says, “Do apps need to look exactly the same . . .”

An assembly line of digital app screens look exactly the same.

“. . . or can a system leave room for . . . for something unexpected?”

The word unexpected appears in a bold font. The last e unexpectedly appears in a groovier font.

“See, when we started drawing Material You, we were choking on our own rules,” the voice continues.

A cursor adjusts a button style and attempts to place it within the bounds of an app layout. The word No repeatedly appears until the button is placed in one designated spot. Then the word Yes appears, until it is moved again into the No area.

“So we loosened up. People started bringing their first ideas to the table. The big, never-in-a-million-years-will-we-actually-make-this ideas.”

Many app screens begin to stack up, all displaying different styles and ideas.

“We loved it. It was spicy,” the voice says.

Spicy appears in a large font under a pattern of dancing chili peppers.

“So we thought maybe instead of laying down rules, maybe it’s more like laying down a beat.”

An app button transforms into line tracks on a digital music board.

“There’s a structure, but it’s not rigid. It’s a rhythm, not a rule,” the voice explains.

Someone dances in a living room as the word rhythm surrounds their movements. The dancer is gone and only rhythm remains, joined by not and rule.

“Hear me out,” says the voice, “When you’ve got the groove going, you can play on the beat or before the beat, or after it.”

Elements that make up a music player app are adjusted, added, and moved around to the beat of the soundtrack.

“Like one team member broke all the rules for how we were pairing colors and it was dope.”

Rectangles of different colors appear and become a colorful mosaic.

“Another one was asking why there can’t be more than one kind of button per page. I feel that.”

A grid fills with rectangles with different degrees of rounded corners that become playful music-player buttons.

“Or maybe it’s OK to sometimes obscure information with the mask. We can go big and wonky and wavy and we don’t have to fit each idea into a formula.”

Ambient images obscure large text and the numbers of a clock expand and fall out of place.

“It’s more like a crazy little solo sitting on top of that groove.”

Interactive elements morph and dance in apps. Cursors adjust the elements. Each cursor is a different person.

“Maybe it’s never played exactly the same way twice, but you still hear the song. That’s the idea with Material You. It's structure, not a straight jacket. We lay down a beat, you make it swing.”

A drummer plays in an empty space while others dance.

The Google G logo appears in several different colors above the website address for design.google

The music fades.