Google Docs Gives Us A First Taste Of Google’s New Design Language

A Google Docs update teases the principles of material design, but the idea is still only half cooked.


Last month, Google debuted a new design language they’re calling Material Design. It won’t roll out in full until the release of their next Android OS (called Android L). But today, you can spot some its principles manifesting in an update to Google Drive, along with its companion sites Docs, Sheets, and Slides.


Though Google Drive is still slowly rolling out to the public, but the redesigns for the three sites have gone live. As GigaOM points out, you’ll see that Google has ditched checkboxes (now things just open when you click them). They’ve added attention-grabbing, circular buttons to create new documents (and if you hover over this these buttons, you’ll be greeted with prominent drop shadow). And your documents are now listed by default as endlessly expandable, white cards.

Old Google Docs
New Google Docs

The updates look great, and as a GDocs junkie, I’ll appreciate them every day. That said, I almost hate to label this superficial makeover as Material Design to anyone who hasn’t seen the idea playing out full-bore when it runs in Android. In essence, Material Design turns user interface into a physical object–a paper that seem to stretch, bounce, and gravitate. While Google Docs does manage to work in more of material design’s structure, drop shadow and white cards, it doesn’t feature any of these seamless animations that really define the language as something potentially groundbreaking. And it goes to show, if Google wants to scale one physical interface across every device you can imagine (from web browsers to smart watches), all of our devices will need to learn how to handle processor-intensive animations better.

Try it here.

[Hat tip: GigaOM]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach