Adhoc Editorials

The New Bauhaus
and Material Design


When creatives come together for a common goal, and share similar visions — good things happen.

The Bauhaus was founded by an architect named Walter Gropius in 1919 and aimed to create an art school that would catalyze the modern arts, design, architecture and other disciplines. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, their aim was to make the World Wide Web a more accessible place.

Gropius’ interests took a tremendous amount of organization, and ultimately the Bauhaus took direction under two others in its lifetime. For Page and Brin, Google became organized and divided into departments. Both the Bauhaus and Google knew that organizing would yield the results they wanted. But, what were they searching for?

A product must be accesible, and its goals must be universally understood.
A product must be accessible, and its goals must be universally understood.

Well, for Gropius and the Bauhaus they were looking for a new world to live in. Conservation, rationality and order in style well all high priority for their members. Living in a defeated Germany shortly after World War I, everything seemed to be in chaos and dismay. Creating a sort of documentation for design helped shape a more effective Europe and luckily the world followed suit shortly after the release of International Style.

Creating a sort of documentation for design helped shape a more effective Europe and luckily the world followed suit shortly after the release of International Style.

For Page and Brin, Google seemed to be handling a similar problem. The Internet, being a relatively new invention at the time had some de facto standards. Standards such as the Cascading Style Sheets (.css files), and the Hyper-textual Markup Language (.html files) were taking shape, and still are to this day. CSS and HTML are the markup of a web page. But, something much larger wouldn’t take shape for another decade for web design.

Markup coded in a cohesive and modular manner renders the visual attributes many users perceive as the style of a web page. Enter Google. Style-guides were an invention learned, iterated and perfected from the Bauhaus school. Material Design is not unlike a style-guide wherein the document outlines rules, goals and clear precepts that will likely be used across Google’s services.’  The company shifted its’ efforts to focus on a coherent brand styling, and introduced Polymerthe development tools for Material Design.

Material Design proclaims that animations must work together to create a delightful experience.
Material Design proclaims that elements, including animations must work together to create a delightful and meaningful experience.

A consequence of the release of the Material Design documents is emulation. There’s no doubt this will effectively change the landscape of the web just as how International Style completely changed the architectural, typographic and urban planning landscape. In Google’s documentation, they outline that everything is inspired by the “physical quality of material.” The designers and developers at Google understand the writers of the CSS specs gave the web a tool, and not a paintbrush. Too often, designers can resort to a sort of unchecked exploration of design within a physical world that is called skeuomorphism. While Material Design is a calculated effort to curb the inherent tendencies to return to the artistic, it encourages developers to explore the world of effectiveness over expression.

Material Design is a calculated effort to curb the inherent tendencies to return to the artistic, it encourages developers to explore the world of effectiveness over expression.

With any luck, emulation will run rampant, and others will discover exciting ways to bend, mend, and break the rules of Material Design to create engaging websites. There’s already a few resources out there that are just getting started. It all begins with Functionalism. There’s never been a more exciting time for the web.



Last modified: February 3, 2015