Travel companies could learn a trick or two from how the world's most pervasive digital brand uses a consistent, minimalist style when creating its product icons and logos and its user interface icons and illustrations.
Since 2011, Google's design work has become sharper, more stylish, and more coherent, helping to market its own products but also setting the benchmark for what users expect from any online services.
Google revealed its design secrets easier this month when its senior graphic designers published Google's visual guidelines, product icons and logos and user interfaces on the designer's platform Behance.
The guidelines show how the company's designers maintain a visual coherence to the brand's visual assets, such as with the icons it uses for its apps and Web products.
The shaping of Google's visual brand is overseen by executive creative director Chris Wiggins, who had an influence over the design of Google's black navigation bar -- which the company rolled out when it first began pushing its Google+ social function.
Here are a few examples from the visual guidelines:
Google icons all must be forward facing, as the top row of examples here illustrates, rather than shown from jaunty angles.
Google icons, logos and marketing materials should all be based on geometric shapes, like this first row of icons, below:
Only specific colors in specific gradients are used across all of the company's websites and apps. Fonts must be consistent, with the typeface in "open sans semi bold." You can see both these colors and this font in action by visiting Google's website for tracking search trends, relaunched a few weeks ago.
Of major concern to Google's designers is how its icons will appear at small sizes, or on screens with low resolution. Their solution is to insist on "pixel perfect" alignment.
Drop shadows -- which attempt to give the illusion of depth to two-dimensional icons and logos -- have been simplified in recent years. The only acceptable format is a straight hard shadow in a uniform shade, ideally presented in 45-degree angles on the objects.
See the recently revamped Google Earth logo as a demonstration of how the curved shadow in different gradients (left) has been replaced with the new look (right) with standard colors, geometric angles, and the standard shadow.
Many travel companies are no where nearly as well versed in the art of branding, icon design, and product marketing as Google. For design inspiration, they can check out Google's visual guidelines, Product icons and logos and part two, on Behance.