Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Google's Design Revolution

A month ago the writers at The Verge were invited to Google's campus and created a fascinating read titled Redesigning Google. It is a great read as I have come to expect from the editorial team at The Verge. What strikes me most about this article is the amount of access given to the team into an area that hardly ever gets seen. I myself use Google services for just about everything I do and have done for the last few years. I have seen the sharp change in design language that Google has introduced in the last few years. The changes to the web versions of Googles offerings were met with resistance from users, though it is hard to tell if there was a large outcry or simply a vocal minority that opposed the sweeping changes Google introduced. There were numerous websites creating posts about how to revert to the classic views of the various services. I for one enjoyed the move to a clean and simple view of my services. I remember speaking to some of my friends about how jarring seeing the omnipresent black bar above every Google webpage was initially. I enjoyed the functionality of being able to jump to through the many services quickly and easily. It was likely the new design language that started to entice me into really diving into the Google way of life. The web presence of Google has become just one facet of the public facing portion of the company.

In 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone and created a digital design standard and Google was working on the design of Android. Google was still focusing on function over form and they helped turn Android into an extremely powerful operating system that lacked the kind of polish consumers were looking for because of iOS. Around this time I was trying to choose my next phone and found the ubiquity of the iPhone off putting and considering that I took enjoyment in many geeky things in my life I found Android fit my personality just right. The evolution of Android from Cupcake to Jelly Bean has been incredibly dramatic and by fair the largest inflection point came with the arrival of Matias Duarte. Former lead designer for Palm's webOS his design ideas have brought Android to the point where it has become both beautiful and powerful. Matias has even introduced design guidelines to help unify the Android experience across applications. Now that Android is beginning to look good on its own, Google has turned to iOS. The new apps Google has released for iOS are nothing short of stunning, and what is equally as incredible is that they do not have the same design language as their counterparts on Android. The design language has apparently developed by committee within Google with each team building upon the next and pushing the style to create a beautiful digitally native look to everything Google does.

Google Now is the single most important update to come to the Android ecosystem as it brings together  many areas Google has become an expert in. The Google Now platform brings in information from Maps, Gmail, Search, and Calendar to name a few and the creators decided to create a unique look for it to reflect the combined strength Google Now has been given. The flow and symplicity of Google Now and Google Glass are a new direction for Google.

I hope that this explosion of attention to design continues at Google as they push forward into new areas of technology. The continuing evolution of products at Google is one of the reason I love using them, they always get better over time. I hope that they will continue this with their design philosophy and continue to create beautiful interfaces for us end users to access the incredible data we receive from them.