What is Material Design?
In 2012 Google came to the realisation that Android's biggest strength, it's openness, and less regulated platform had become a significant problem for app design. In 2014 Google unveiled Material Design, a design system to help ensure Android apps look consistent across different display sizes while maintaining a beautiful user experience.
Material design built on the success of the flat design trend using functional shapes and buttons, however, uses shadows to establish a hierarchy and depth. Material Design uses drop shadows to show buttons that hover over the content and establish a sense of place. In this video Google designers explain their thinking behind it.
Regardless of whether you like the aesthetic style of material design or not (I personally really like it), the whole idea behind it is an incredible world first. Google has created a public design language that they encourage app designers around the world to use. Nothing like this has ever existed before on this scale, and it has allowed inexperienced app developers to build apps that look and work great. Google recognised its responsibility as the owner of the Android operating platform and found a way to non-threatening way to clean up the design of apps, making it a better experience for everyone. For many years both Apple and Google have openly shared the best practices for designing successful apps, as an attempt to boost the functionality and design of apps on their platforms; however, Google has taken it to an entirely new level essentially teaching people about good design and giving them a pre-made system to execute it. One concern I have is that it may result in lots of Android apps looking remarkably similar. Google talks about how flexible the system is; however, it's simplicity could result in a reduction in creative solutions as designers rely on the fact Google has done a lot of experimenting already.