Picture a Better You: How Google Calendar Uses Illustration to Help You Reach Your Goals
written by Alessandro Suraci, Google Calendar UX team.

Commitment is hard. Experience tells us we will likely not succeed, so we make excuses — I don’t have the gear for running; I’m too busy to call Mom this week; where can I find the time to read? — and eventually fall back to our old routines. Most of us set up resolutions each year, yet very few of us will stick to them. While the odds are not in our favor, there’s good news: scheduling activities increases the chances of completing your goals.

We designed Goals to help you schedule time for what matters in your life, working around unexpected changes in plans, while learning from your routine and preferences. Machine learning — our algorithms figure out the best time for you to perform certain activities, learning over time — and illustration work together to help you stay on track and guide you through the process.

Owen Davey’s delightful canvases show different people achieving their goals.

Illustration as a tool for discovery

The five canvases — Exercise, Build a skill, Friends & family, Me time, Organize my life — created for us by illustrator Owen Davey, inspire people to visualize themselves working towards their goals. His artwork fosters discovery, helping users explore the variety of goals we curated in the app, from getting healthier, to dealing with chores, and staying in touch with people who matter in your life. Imagery acts as a bridge between aspirations and the content you see in Calendar, making goals more tangible and actionable — seeing a woman running with her dog for example, might get me off the couch and to the park for an evening run.

Illustration as a knowledgeable guide

Similarly, Maya Stepien’s iconographic event illustrations walk the users through the goal set up process, helping them focus on key aspects of the activity (I need a brush and some canvas before I practice painting, for example) from visualization and mental preparation, to action. These same illustrations surface throughout the whole goal cycle, visually nudging users, and helping them build their routine, day after day.

Maya Stepien’s illustrations help you build a routine, step-by-step.

Setting up a Goal requires the user to specify a number of parameters. As we imagine most users setting up just a few Goals — learn to swim, call Mom, read more — we prioritized clarity in our design. A sequence of immersive screens walks the user through each task. The illustration serves as the title of the page, and parallax scrolling removes the need for a progress indicator, as the image conveys forward movement on its own.

Illustrations enhance and guide you through Goal set up.

We also dynamically pull coordinated color samples to set the background and accent color, in order to highlight the confirmation button (the dark blue and bright blue in the example above). Text and UI elements are then colored light or dark, ensuring enough contrast to meet the needs of low vision users.

Using illustration to maintain a consistent, vibrant voice over time

Balancing the uniqueness of each artist within Goals’ overarching visual identity and visual approach is critical. The proportions and details of Owen Davey’s characters make for lively and optimistic artwork; Maya Stepien’s images delight us with graphic details and her unique use of shadows and textures. When bringing Owen and Maya’s work together, we considered two main aspects of Calendar’s brand:

  • Deliberate use of color. Using the product’s palette as a baseline — without limiting the artist — imagery in Calendar augments and works together with the app’s colorful UI.

  • Diverse and inclusive representations of people and activities.Reinforcing Google’s values, we chose to represent a diverse range of humans and activities. Whether you wish to be a great dancer, a caring mom, or just want to take more selfies, our illustrations strive to celebrate everyone’s abilities, styles, and aspirations in life.

The power of visual tools

Productivity shouldn’t be synonymous with monotony. With Goals, we’ve brought to life the vast range of activities that make up our days, while simultaneously enhancing the effectiveness of our tools. We hope our users will share the same joy in achieving their goals as we had in designing Goals for Google Calendar.