Google’s Index Cards – Minimal Visual Cohesion and World Domination?

Published on May 20, 2013

A lot of interesting things have been happening at the Googleplex. At last week’s I/O developer conference they announced a bunch of new services and platform enhancements– including the new Spotify music streaming competitor, All Access.
Much of what was unveiled pointed to the deeper integration of products. Music Access All areas is a feature within Google Music; the mobile Google Chat app disappears, to be replaced by a shiney new dedicated app for Hangouts (and IM); Hangouts become more deeply embedded in Google+.
For those of us who use Android devices and Google Apps for Business, our world is becoming increasingly familiar as we flip between apps. Activity in one is starting to appear in another, and the UX across different apps is beginning to look and feel the same.
Over the past six months Google has started to introduce the visual concept of ‘Cards’ accross all of its apps – a very simple and elegant way of organizing our information. From Google+ to Google Play, Cards of various shapes and sizes are breeding wildly.
This is smart stuff. One of Google’s biggest challenges to date has been convincing a very (very) dedicated core search and email user base to experiment with, use and switch to other apps within its broad and often obscure software portfolio.
Its new Cards UX helps, a lot.
Google’s design team refers to this movement as ‘minimal visual cohesion’ – and, as a software branding concept, it seems to be working its magic. Newer products such as Google Keep (a stripped down Evernote competitor) no longer feel like an off-the-cuff labs experiment. They feel a lot like everything else Google now has to offer: sleek and polished.
Says Matias Duarte, UX director for Android: “It’s not like we’ve invented a new way to organize information. We’ve actually tapped into one of the oldest pieces of graphic and information design around -business cards, calling cards, greeting cards, playing cards. They all have the same embodiments because they’re all reflections of a similar set of design problems.”
The rise of Android and the importance of well designed mobile apps will no doubt have been a driving factor in this change, but I’m fairly sure that when large bets were placed against Apple with Google Play and Google Music, someone in Mountain View decided it was time that Google – the world’s leading engineering-led software company – became a more design-led outfit.
The results are looking good.
Here’s a view of my new Google card-like world…

Google+ (Desktop)

Google Now (App)

Google Maps (App)

Google Currents (App)

Google Music (App)

Google Play (App)

Google Hangouts (App)

Google Keep (App)