Google Design’s best of 2017


18 December 2017


In partnership with

Google Design’s goal is to connect, support, and inspire designers and design technologists.

This year, Review of the Year 2017 is supported by Google Design, an initiative led by a group of designers, writers and developers at Google. The group works across teams to create content and produce events that showcase Google’s design work and champion innovators in the field. With a stellar year just wrapping up, below the Google Design team highlights some of its milestones over the last 12 months.

At Google Design, we spend the majority of our year thinking about the what, why, and how of design. We connect with designers from both inside and outside of the company to learn about their triumphs and failures, and we aren’t afraid to get nerdy and dive into the nitty gritty details. And while 2017 was tumultuous in many respects, it happened to also be a particularly fruitful year for design at Google. So we’re counting down the days until 2018 by taking a look back on some of the projects that counted most to our community.

Super Selfie Sticker Sheet

Who invented the selfie? Who cares when you can make yourself into a cartoon… or at least have some machines do it for you. Allo launched what was arguably one of its most entertaining sticker sheets to date (and trust us, it’s had a few) which uses a combination of neural networks and the work of artists to turn your selfie into a personalised sticker pack. Simply snap a selfie, and it’ll return an automatically generated illustrated version of you, on the fly, with customisation options to help you personalise the stickers even further. The result: endless fun and very few filters or duckface to employ.

Trusty Tools for Making Material

Maybe Millennial Pink has finally given way to faded-out persimmon, or you’re just biding time until we know what 2018’s ‘It’ shade will be. In either case, the Material Design Color Tool dropped this year to rid you of your colour woes and make it easy to create, share, and apply Material palettes to your projects. And you know what’s nifty? You can also use the tool to test the accessibility of text and colour combos, which means more people can interact with your work. If colour leaves you cold, then turn your attention to Material Components – a set of up-to-date, pixel-perfect components made for Android, iOS, and the web. Like building blocks, these open source tools give shape to sites like Google Design (navigate our main menu to see the color ripple in action), and speed up the development process so you can build better and faster.

Spectacular SPAN Events

Our annual design and technology conference always takes us somewhere new. This year, a focus on cities redefining the intersection of art and industry brought SPAN to Pittsburgh, Newcastle-Gateshead, and Mexico City. We met talented folks who are giving shape to the future of design every day, through their work with robots, data viz, and in one case, waffles. We also learned the secret history of AI and picked up quite a bit of local slang— and you can too by catching up on talks from all three events and reading all our recaps, including a deep dive on the modular event identity, in our SPAN collection.

Seriously Satisfying Google Doodles

What started in 1998 as a sign that Google’s co-founders were OOO at Burning Man has transformed into a beloved tradition of celebrating notable moments and inspirational figures on the Google homepage. In 2017, many of the most popular Doodles centered around music, including an homage to iconic performer Selena Quintanilla and the 44th anniversary of the Birth of Hip Hop. We were particularly inspired by the musical visualisation machine honoring artist Oskar Fischinger. In the realm of design, top Doodles celebrated Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, groundbreaking designer Eiko Ishioka, the invention of the Traffic Light Man, and the 131st anniversary of the Hole Puncher.

Most Crucial New Emoji

Picking a favourite emoji is a bit like choosing a favourite child, and with the bounty that unicode blessed the internet with this past year, the task has become only more daunting. Who will be our next dark horse “hole in the ground,” who will match the semantic gymnastics achieved by trusty eggplant. It may be be too early to tell, but here’s a list of some of our favorite Android 8.0 updates.

Technically speaking, is this not a cheeseburger? Regardless, the years-old debate about Google’s inability to construct a hamburger properly has been put to bed with the 8.1 update. The cheese is now in its rightful resting place, atop the meat, and Android Burger Day at the Google cafes will never be the same.

Exploding Head
The go-to emoji for hyperbole or the canned response to every presidential tweet? Your call. We’ll just say this new character quickly became the official mascot for 2017 and leave it at that.

Face vomiting
Have your friends reverted to posting spon-con on Instagram? Are you having a visceral reaction to someone’s vacation hashtag? Did you literally drink spoiled milk? Face vomiting emoji has you covered.

Beer mug/clinking beer mugs
Like the hamburger, the Beer and Clinking Beer Android emoji has received its fair share of shade in recent years. As it’s literally impossible to have a heady foam atop pure air, the simple physics of the old emoji was improbable. The latest update closes that gap in our perception, though one could argue that with it, a bit of the sloshy poetry has been lost.

Give props to a buddy or colleague for some wizardly feat by sharing Mage – the new, wizened-old sage emoji that will undoubtedly hocus pocus its way into our hearts and daily D&D banter.

Person in steamy room
It’s called #selfcare, and we all need more it. Whether your sauna ladle is literal or proverbial, “person in a steamy room”, is all about taking the waters, R&R, and the most important ROI – you.

Shushing face
At Google Design one of our favorite pastimes is to talk behind each others backs on a shared chat. It’s funny because the person can read everything we’re writing. It’s basically the opposite of catty or cruel, and it most certainly is not a secret. This little character captures that spirit with an earnest shush that reads more like a wink.

Supported by Google

Google is proud to support It’s Nice That in championing a broad and inclusive creative community with its annual Review of the Year. We believe that design is critical to building great products and experiences, and we’re committed to fostering best-in-class results with efforts like Material Design, a unified system combining theory, resources, and tools to help designers and engineers craft beautiful, digital experiences, as well as through our cooperative efforts at Google Design.

From producing original articles and videos, to hosting creative and educational partnerships and events, Google Design’s goal is to connect, support, and inspire designers and design thinkers. Sign up for the Google Design Newsletter to learn more.

Share Article

Further Info

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.