Android P is all about Material Design and Data liberation: Your smartphone is a jumble of menus and buttons. While the hamburger menu and settings cog have become omnipresent, dig a little deeper, and you’re still presented using an eclectic grab bag of options. With the release of Android P, Google is trying to change this. Again.

Material Design, Google’s attempt to make sense of the unrelenting mess that’s applications design, started in 2014. It brought with it new recommendations for how not just smartphone and tablet apps, but all applications, should look and feel. More importantly, it tried to formalize the way they should behave when a human used them. For developers, it supplied handy tips and tools for making applications easier to use. For users, it was intended to make smartphones, tablets, and laptops more intuitive. It did not.

So today, four decades later Google launched its Material Design eyesight, it’s having another go. And it is a vision of the future that is especially important for the success of Android P.

Material Design might not be that the solution to how we design apps, but it’s at least a solution.

“We spent two years telling people ‘this is the way to create Material yours,’ and it did not work,” Duarte said soon after Google raised the lid on its upgraded vision for applications design. And its new guidelines for Material Design create the main reason for this failure abundantly clear: to create apps, and applications in general, easier to use, it is important that buttons and menus have a similar form and function — it is not important that they appear exactly alike. And that’s where Material Theming comes in. Google calls it a “roadmap for future redesigns,” but it is possible to call it “making Android less of a confusing hellscape.”

Google’s renewed drive for design consistency relies on similarly creating apps work while keeping their individuality. In short: two calendar apps may seem entirely different, but you need to immediately know how to create an appointment at either of these without having to learn a whole new interface.

Material Theming, Android P

Material Theming is Google’s effort to assist this way of thinking combined. Change the color or typography of this program you’re working on, by way of example, and the remainder of the program’s design will change accordingly. In practical terms, it means that developers can make their application feel distinct without chucking options and buttons all over the area. As Google readily admits, the restrictive nature of Material Design made incorporating individuality and flair to an app without forfeiting its ease of use and consistency “tedious and wasteful.” A new tool named Material Theme Editor enables developers to alter one theme worth and have it change throughout the design.

android p beta - Android P is all about Material Design and Data liberation
android p beta – Android P is all about Material Design and Data liberation

And Google is even practicing what it preaches. The new versions of Gmail, Google News, Google Play and Google Home use Material Theming to make a “cohesive, branded experience.” As the new-look Gmail shows, Google was using Material Design to alter how its apps and services operate on all kinds of devices. On the newest Google News, which uses artificial intelligence to curate lists of related and relevant stories, the new Material Design tools have been used to formalize and set font types to make it a lot easier to draw people’s attention to the main headlines.

Data liberation

And so that the upcoming colossal leap in applications design won’t be visual, it will be technical. Right now, apps still live in silos. The app-ification of software sliced everything up, hiding your holiday booking in Airbnb, your plans with your friends in WhatsApp along with your budget at a Google Doc. The vision for Duarte and Google at large would be to free up all that data and create the ports that lock it away vanish. The first inklings of the exist in Alexa and Google Assistant, but there’s a very long way to go.

Three decades back, Duarte lamented applications’ continued dependency to the much-maligned GUI. And he set himself a ten-year target to change how we interact with technologies.


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