On the Way to OneDesign
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On the Way to OneDesign

Chapter 1: Crafting a unified design language for Amazon, starting with our growing device family.

When someone uses an Amazon device, they should know what to expect. It should have a consistent point of view and core design elements. It should feel Amazonian. And not just for a North American audience. For literally everyone on Earth.


There had always been an appetite for this kind of common design language. But for a long time, speed outweighed cohesion. The desire to build, ship, get customer feedback and improve guided us. But as our family of devices grew, the need for a unified visual language became increasingly clear.


When we sat down to create OneDesign, our charter was simple: curate that language across all devices. By doing this, we would benefit our customers, our business—and our design teams.


Design that speaks to the world

We started by gathering our visual designers, UX designers, motion designers and illustrators to audit what had been created by our individual, and typically siloed, teams. We looked at everything with Amazon’s global presence in mind so that we could build something universal, that worked from Beijing to Budapest to Boston.

We looked at everything with Amazon’s global presence in mind so that we could build something universal, that worked from Beijing to Budapest to Boston.


We had been using stock photography in our UI for a long time, but we intentionally wanted to move away from generic solutions to something made by Amazon. Capturing our own photography was a possibility, but then we’d be creating a dependency on expensive, time-consuming photo shoots. Instead, we made a strategic decision: create a unique illustration style.


Why illustrations?

Drawings flow from an illustrator’s hand, so they’re immediately personal. They have an artfulness that gives identity to an experience. We set out to develop a style that embodies Alexa’s personality—something that was ownable and universal, in a timeless style that spoke to users everywhere. Much like children’s books today are designed to compel adults as much as children, we were interested in crafting a visual narrative that would resonate with the widest range of customers, no matter where those customers live.


We had to make strategic choices to reach that global audience. Take animals, for example. Squirrels are very North American, while golden possums are uniquely Australian. They don’t translate across continents. We decided to lean into zoo animals—tigers, penguins, polar bears—since these public collections are the closest thing we have to a universal animal experience.

Amazon OneDesign Palette

Signature colors that sync with brand

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A designer’s job is never done

Carpenters don't make their own hammers. Mechanics don't build their own wrenches. They have a toolkit with everything they need, so they can just work. Our goal for designers was the same. To give them a kit of parts and a big sandbox and say: go play.

 

We created OneDesign not to be a rigid set of rules, but as a visual DNA foundation that designers can use. This shared DNA comes in the form of five core primitives:


Typography: We chose to lean heavily into our branded display typeface as our primary typography. This typeface has rounded terminals that add a level of softness to the visual experience and ladder up to one of our core tenets of crafting a warm, approachable, and friendly interaction with our device ecosystem.

 

Color: Our devices aren’t just made to be functional. They’re lifestyle pieces. We had to build a color palette that encompasses both function and fashion. We built a palette around the soft, friendly Alexa blue, using it to connect our device experiences—even ones without screens, like Echo.


Iconography: We created a library of 850 icons, each with 42 variable sizes and states. That means 43,000 icons in total, and we took them from mono-linear drawings to filled-in shapes, so they scale fluidly from mobile to TV.

 

Rounded Radius: We want our device experience to feel welcoming and approachable, so we took our own typeface—the one in all our devices—and rounded the edges to soften it. We applied this same softening to a new suite of 850 icons, as well as to how we mask content and form cards. It's a subtle change, but that nuance harmonizes these DNA components to feel intentional inside the user experience.

 

Depth: We wanted to bring depth to the user experience by adding a soft shadow to elements of focus. This affordance not only acts as wayfinding but also helps to build hierarchy within the experience and imbues a sense of softness that supports the overarching design language.

 

A true team effort

OneDesign was a massive undertaking—we rewrote the rules for how everything looks across tens of millions of devices. A design system that touches every single Amazon device customer and scales globally.

OneDesign was a massive undertaking—we rewrote the rules for how everything looks across tens of millions of devices. A design system that touches every single Amazon device customer and scales globally.


For a project like this, success isn’t just about the quality of what you produce. It’s also about the quality of support you have. And from the product, marketing, and packaging teams we collaborated with, to leadership—who believed in the OneDesign vision—everyone took ownership for the value of what we were trying to build.


Design-centric principles first

Amazon has been making devices for years now and in all that time we’d never shipped a unified design language. But the benefits have been immediate. OneDesign has helped us marry our need for agility with our desire to put design-centric principles first, creating a consistent Amazon Devices experience that has the potential to grow into an Amazon design language through continuing collaborating with great designers.


OneDesign offers a consistent, welcoming, universal experience. We can go to market even faster since the design process is more efficient. And Amazon designers have the tools they need to make innovative experiences on behalf of our customers. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time with new core elements. They’re free to skip ahead and do what they do best: design.



Be sure to watch the video above and stay tuned for more on this exciting initiative...