UI design has been evolving recently, and that has a lot to do with Google’s new Material Design Language that debuted last year. The concept is inspired by traditional ol’ paper and ink. Google interfaces are now more three dimensional with each component on its own “physical” layer, like sheets of paper laying on top of each other, sliding around to reveal different content sections.
Google designer Matías Duarte explained that “unlike real paper, our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.”
This is why we’re seeing design start to move away from flat design, sliding back to a more skeumorphic experience. But don’t worry, it will never get as far as the uber glossy buttons of yore and offensively strong drop shadows. What it does mean is that designers are starting to incorporate more subtle shadows and gradients back into their traditionally flat designs for added depth. For instance, that flat blue button, laying flat on a stark white background, will now have a subtle drop shadow so it appears to be a “physical” component sitting atop the ‘background material” but it will be so subtle, you probably won’t notice it unless you look close enough.
When Google creates something this big of a deal, other designers, myself included, take notice and pick up on a thing or two that in turn influences their designs going forward. I’ve been an apple fan forever, but watching what Google has been up to the past couple years is starting to make me think, maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll slide to the dark side and go Android.