Matias Duarte Talks Android Design With On The Verge

Matias Duarte Talks Android Design With On The Verge

Joelle Alcaidinho
Nov 15, 2011

Last night we had the opportunity to attend the taping of On The Verge which had Google's Director of User Experience for Android, Matias Duarte, as a special guest. We took notes while Matias chatted about his design philosophy with Joshua Topolsky of The Verge all the while ogling the smart retro-futuristic set. Here are a few things Matias had to say about fonts and the design future of Android.

The premier of On the Verge went smoothly despite the host, Editor-in-Chief of The Verge, Joshua Topolsky's quips of the show not being in beta, but alpha. The audience was more than pleased to see Google's Matias Duarte with manly shouts of "I love you" being heard once he appeared on the set. Like the Android market, the audience for the show was mostly male and judging from the handsets in evidence, made up of many many Android users.

During his time on the show, Matias talked about being responsible for that spark at the end of the menu in Gingerbread and played down Honeycomb while sitting on a couch that looked like it belonged to Don Draper. Matias also chatted about the "fontroversy" behind Roboto and when asked how he felt about it responded that "when they call your children ugly, nobody likes that." He briefly chatted about some of the discussion around the new font and geometric purity and bluntly stated that if you could not tell the difference between Roboto and Helvetica you're not part of the discussion. Our font loving hearts were a flutter when he talked about the importance of good typography as it undercuts everything. He also emphasized the challenges the mobile space provides to typography and talked about why Google created Roboto.

As folks that have complained about the different and widely varying look and feel of various Android devices it was nice to hear that Matias and his team are working on having a more cohesive identity for Ice Cream Sandwich. At the same time, they do not want to create a straight jacket and when shown different examples of some not so great looking Android interfaces on various devices he regaled them for doing something different. It will be interesting to see if Android can pull off having a cohesive identity at the same time praising and encouraging difference in their OS.

During the show he also demoed the real time video effects on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and when asked about other camera features, he declared that exposure and white balance are "crap" and that a machine should do this. As avid photographers and people who love to have lots of control over our images, we will take white balance controls over silly video effects any day of the week.

One of the most hilarious parts of the show had to be when Matias was asked about the news that a picture can be used for face unlock in Ice Cream Sandwich. Matias declared someone using your picture to unlock the phone was an unlikely scenario and made a joke about someone ripping off your face and wearing it to fool Android face unlock as another unlikely scenario. We're going to disagree and put a picture being used for face unlock as a far more likely scenario and something that would actually be rather common.

Want to see the interview, scope out the "Don Draper's Spaceship" (thanks On The Verge producer Chad Mumm for that description) set, and see the very cool Lytro camera in action? Watch the first episode of On The Verge here. Oh and did we mention that the fabulous set has an IKEA hack?

What's your take on Matias Duarte's design thoughts and the future of Android?

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho & The Verge)

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