MaterialUp App, by Aleksandar Tešić

How To Design Stunning Apps Directly From Your Android Phone.

An interview with a talented designer who uses his smartphone as his design tool, with good reasons.

At MaterialUp, we love to discover amazing designers and learn more about their story and design process. By looking at different platforms to uncover amazing designs, we put together a great diversity of work and people behind them. This means that they have different stories and different design processes to share.

Meet Aleksandar Tešić, a young designer currently living in Serbia. A couple weeks ago he published an app concept for MaterialUp, and we were stunned by the quality of his design: it is incredibly neat and well thought, down to every detail. And Aleksandar take the time to explain his choices in terms of UI when presenting his work, which we particularly like as a community. So naturally we immediately wanted to know more about his background and Design process — and to say that the latter is unusual would be an understatement!


MaterialUp — Hi Aleksandar! Tell us, how did you become a designer?

Aleksandar Tešić — I started designing app UIs at the beginning of 2015. Before that, I liked designing home screen themes for my phone and as time went on, the themes I made got more complex and looked more and more like app UIs so it all came naturally to me.

YouTube redesign, by Aleksandar Tešić

Google I/O 2014 first attracted me to Material Design. It sounded like such a cool concept and its ideas made sense. Plus, it looked really really nice.

MaterialUp — It sure did! So you mentioned that you like to design from your OnePlus One phone, which is something we’ve never heard of! Is it by choice? What are the advantages?

Yeah, I do. Like I said, it all came naturally so it doesn’t feel like I even had a choice to make, but I guess it actually is by choice. I mean, I could go and open Photoshop and do it there, but I currently don’t see the advantages in that.

If I’m designing something for a phone, it makes more sense to actually do it on an phone than a computer, right?

I get a better idea of how the design will look like on a phone, if the dimensions are good, if the colors match etc. That’s the biggest advantage, in my opinion. Other than that, it’s free.

The only disadvantage I can think of is that it’s probably much slower to do these things on a phone than a computer.

MaterialUp — What tools, apps, resources do you use when designing?

The main tool I use is Themer launcher and Zooper widget, which is built-into it and modified to allow full screen widget rendering. That’s about it.

I also regularly visit the Material Design guidelines page on Google Design to read about guidelines, specs, components etc.

MaterialUp — What Zooper widget pack do you currently have installed on your phone? Antracit?

Antracit — Zooper widget pack, by Aleksandar Tešić

I actually don’t have any, not even Antracit! The reason I made Antracit was just to make a simple Zooper widget pack in Material design with the right specs and guidelines.

I don’t really use widgets — my home screen is either the default one from Google launcher or a completely empty screen with a swipe gesture for the app drawer.

I do love the process of designing home screens, but once they’re finished and I feel happy with the finished “product”, I delete everything and leave the screen blank (until the next design).

MaterialUp — Have you tried any prototyping tool? Is there one that allows you to create prototypes or animations from your phone?

As far as I know, there aren’t any. I’ve heard about Kustom, but I never got into it so I can’t really tell. I did want to try Zeplin on my PC because it looked really useful and easy, but it turns out it’s only available for OS X.

MaterialUp — Looks like there’s a need there! So you created some stunning Material Design concepts and we want to learn more about your creative process. Let’s take the MaterialUp App concept you made — how long did it take you roughly?

Thanks! The MaterialUp app concept took me about 4 hours. That’s relatively fast (considering how slow it is to work in Zooper widget) because most of the elements in the redesign were already on your website — I just “polished” them with the right specs and similar.

MaterialUp App concept, by Aleksandar Tešić

However, the ones that take the most time are those that are completely designed out of my head because I have to think of, arrange and draw everything myself. But even then, some take a few hours (i.e. A music player in material design) and others can’t be finished in several days because I’m lacking inspiration and/or motivation.

MaterialUp — Do you think we could eventually design anything from a smartphone or we’ll always need a mouse and keyboard?

I would love that, especially for designs that are made for phones. I’m sure we could for what I’m doing, especially if there was an app built specifically for that purpose, but I can’t speak for other spheres of designs where we’d need a tool more precise than our fingers.

MaterialUp — Fair enough! What redesign you made are you the happiest with?

Hard question. Looking back at them, I always think of so many things that could’ve been done differently so I’m not perfectly happy with either one of them.

I guess the one with the least things I’d change is “A music player in material design — a concept”. I was very inspired to make something outside the usual material-design-guidelines box and it turned out great. Plus, I had a lot of fun making it.

A music player in material design — a concept, by Aleksandar Tešić

MaterialUp — And what is the best Material Design app/website you’ve seen so far?

Weather Timeline, by Sam Ruston

Weather Timeline is one of my favorites. It’s beautiful and very fluid and takes an original and creative approach to Material design.

Another one of my favorites is Phonograph. The developer, (ed. Karim Abou Zeid), is a really cool guy who’s constantly improving and redesigning the app. And he takes feedback in a great way.

MaterialUp — Is there anything in particular you’d like to say to the Google Design team, something you think could be improved or anything you’d like to point out?

Yeah, there’s a lot of things I’d say to the Google Design team and most of them aren’t good so bare with me here. I’m not a developer, but actually how hard is it to follow those guidelines they made? They kept talking about a fluid and consistent experience and yet Google apps is one of the most inconsistent group of apps I’ve seen — different elevations for same elements, a range of differently designed components like buttons, tabs, lists… Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to see apps with creative design when there’s a reason for it, but what Google is doing is just carelessness. There is absolutely no purpose in, for example, making the Hangouts navigation drawer completely different than what it’s supposed to be, other than confusing users and making a mess.

But we’ve all talked about this over and over again and nothing has been done yet, so I guess we’re not getting the magical experience we were expecting from that I/O any time soon. I’m just having trouble understanding how and why it happens but whatever… I got used to it. Sorry about that rant.

MaterialUp — No worries Aleksandar. Like you said it’s an ongoing conversation among Material Design ‘users’. Thanks for doing the interview Aleksandar, it was a pleasure!

Likewise. Thank you for interviewing me!

You can follow Aleksandar’s work here:

MaterialUp.com