GOOGLE released more than 40 new Android Wear watch faces and devoting an entire section of the Google Play store to the category. The company commissioned more than 15 artists and designers for the job. This isn’t a surprising move—every Android Wear timepiece comes loaded with a set of pre-packaged faces, and developers have created their own custom versions since Android Wear launched this summer. But it does show that Google’s interested in exploring the watch face’s potential as a touch point for our digital lives—one that might go beyond simply telling time.
The face is the first thing you notice about a watch. On digital versions, the face’s role is multi-functional: It’s an expression of your personal taste and style. It tells the time. It’s an entry point to a richer world of interaction that’s only a swipe or tap away. But it’s not just about decorative customization. Some designers are betting that the face will become a mode of interaction in its own right. “Traditionally a watch face is restricted by real world physicality,” says Toph Brown, a producer at design firm Ustwo. “But on a digital watch face you can do so much more.”
Ustwo New York designed 18 of Google’s new watch faces and worked with the company to build the watch face framework, a set of guidelines for Android Wear developers to use when creating their own designs. The big goal is to encourage developers to create something “authentically digital,” a Google-approved phrase that’s meant to distinguish smartwatches from their mechanical counterpart. So how do you design a watch face that can exist only in pixels?