Dynamic Color today is implemented across most first-party Google apps on Android. During the development process, the Material Design team had to reconcile the wallpaper-derived color palette with those that were hard-coded by the application/developer. A recent blog explains the solution Material You arrived at.

Before Material 3 launched to the world, our cross-functional team worked inside Google to understand how teams envisioned their products with the new Material You design language. Several teams raised a challenge with dynamic color: changing colors depending on the user conflicted with products’ chosen colors, which were often semantic and needed to stay static.

Semantic colors are those that initiatively “express conventional meaning,” like how red is associated with stopping/ending. During Dynamic Color’s design process, Google says the “challenges with semantic colors became clear right away,” especially when the wallpaper-generated palette was similar to hues that were manually selected by app developers.

For example, imagine a smart home app where custom colors like yellow, orange, blue, green could be used to intuitively represent concepts like lighting, heating, cooling, and success. These could clash with the user color on the same screen, especially if that color can change.

Google ultimately decided to retain semantic colors but make them closer – either warmer or cooler – to a user’s Dynamic Color. This resulted in a more “harmonious” experience as governed by color theory. A threshold makes it so that a color’s identity remains – “a ‘yellow’ didn’t turn all the way to ‘green,’ and retained its semantic meaning.”

We found that harmonious semantic colors tended to be closer to the user color: semantic colors’ hue numbers were shifting around, making them slightly warmer or cooler. For example, in a blue dynamic scheme, semantic colors like red, orange and green all became cooler, moving closer to the cool hue of the blue user color.

The full blog post from the Material Design team is available here.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com