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Creativity and Holding the Internet in Your Hands

Trends and Insight 0 Add to collection

Google’s VP of design for hardware products, Ivy Ross, explains how her team makes physical products feel 'Googley'

Creativity and Holding the Internet in Your Hands
What does it feel like to hold Google in your hand? That’s the question my team was tasked with answering for our newly formed hardware division in 2016. 
 
Leading up to that debut, we took note of how similar electronics look in today’s market and carefully considered our own design choices that would enable us to bring Google to life in new and exciting ways.
 
The amazing opportunity we’re given to design products that end up in our users’ homes and in their hands and pockets is one we take very seriously. And we take every detail into consideration in order to create technology that feels human and personal. From soft fabrics and textures to bright pops of color, our line of products introduced a new design language that expressed Google in a physical form for the first time.
 
When you see our products, they feel undeniably Googley. But getting there was a journey that required tapping into data as well as our intuition as designers.
 

We use both data and intuition to inform our design decisions

 
It’s no surprise data plays a role in our design decisions at Google. We are, after all, a company founded by engineers. In many fields, data has become the dominant driver of decisions, and is heralded as the safe and certain path for decision making—the end-all-be-all. But overemphasizing the importance of data in design can lead to end results that feel cold and sterile. All the while, we have another equally important (but often overlooked) form of data readily available: our intuition.
 
On the surface, data and intuition seem like contradictory sources of information. Data refers to the facts and statistics collected for reference or analysis. Whereas intuition refers to our ability to understand or perceive something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning - it’s your gut reaction and appraisal of any situation. And it’s based on the information and experience you’ve collected over a lifetime.
 
When considering intuition’s role in design decisions, its most powerful ability is to help our brain connect the dots. Sometimes a design approach simply feels right. It feels organic and natural and our body senses something that no data or research could ever quantify.
 
While creating Google’s design principles, we valued intuition as an important data point. The result? We strive to build technology that feels human. Our products’ simple, pure geometry and use of materials that had never been considered for consumer electronics allow our hardware to feel like a natural extension of our users’ homes and lives. Trusting our intuition in this space is what allows us to create technology that feels closer to us.
 

Successful design requires less thinking and more feeling


The notion of utilizing intuition as an equally important tool as data led me to begin thinking about the contrast between “Design Thinking” and “Design Feeling,” which are both important parts of our process. Design Thinking encompasses all the integral elements of classic design - mathematics, geometry, color theory, etc. But the newer notion of Design Feeling brings us back to design’s most pure principles. 
 
Great designers innately consider how their work will impact those that experience it. How does a certain combination of colors make you feel? How does my body react to a certain texture? Putting greater emphasis on “Design Feeling” is simply shifting the importance of what good design means, how we approach it and what we want the outcome to be. 
 
How does this approach impact our process and products at Google? Every product, from the beginning of the design process, is considered on an emotional, feeling level. From the combination of materials to the exact shade of a color, we obsess over how each of these choices makes us feel. 
 
We also consider how each of these elements can help shape the trajectory of consumer electronics. Since we introduced fabric on the Google Home speaker, we’ve seen more and more fabric showing up across products from numerous brands. That’s an exciting development and we feel that increasing the humanity in technology will continue to benefit us all for generations to come.


Bringing these elements together at Milan Design Week

 
All of these sources of information - intuition, data and feeling - came together at our Salone del Mobile 2019 exhibit in Milan utilizing a field of study called neuroaesthetics.
 
The field of neuroaesthetics has recently begun to shed even more light on design processes and the importance of thoughtful design in that it can actually impact our well-being. And we’re actually able to show that impact through various forms of data. 
 
Over a year, we developed and built a concept that could clearly demonstrate this. At our exhibit, each visitor was outfitted with a custom wearable band that captured their biological responses to three uniquely designed rooms utilizing four distinct sensors. These three rooms were built with their own look and feel including distinct furnishings, lighting, textures, colors, audio and even the scent. At the end of the experience, visitors experienced a visualization of their unique responses to each room and a printed readout of which one made them feel most “at ease”.  
 
We had an incredible response from our visitors in Milan. People loved getting a glimpse into their personal reactions to design and being given that gift of reflection. 
 
The concept of neuroaesthetics is all about the importance of igniting our senses in the most positive way through various design approaches. It’s through combining intuition, data and design thinking and feeling that we can build technology that can actually improve our users well-being.
 

People are the final ingredient to great design

 
All of the elements we’ve discussed play an integral role in our approach to design. But underneath all of the processes and principles is what I believe is the real secret sauce is to great design: the people.  
 
Our team is from all over the world and from different walks of life. And they each have expertise in different areas of design: UX, research, engineering, color and materials, as well as various form factors like furniture design or fashion. 
 
I most often describe myself as an orchestra conductor: I bring together a wide variety of people with different skill sets, knowledge and talents and create a space where they can collaborate, create and experiment. As I see it, we are all the same, yet everyone has unique talents and gifts, so the magic happens when they can be amplified in harmony with one another. 
 
One way we create that harmony is through team outings - usually in nature and almost always without our devices. Last summer our team traveled to a 145-acre organic farm where they could each enjoy activities completely unrelated to our normal workday. They could pick flowers and learn how to arrange them, learn about beekeeping with real hives or pick tomatoes and discover how to can them and create tomato sauce. Nature is the ultimate sensory experience filled with color, texture, sound, smell and space and it ignites our curiosity and creativity in astounding ways.
 
We can’t overlook the importance of trust and connection when it comes to designing and creating together. And we need to find other ways and spaces for that to occur outside of our day-to-day work environment. If you focus on yourself or your singular goals, you may knowingly succeed. But if you forget yourself, and truly connect with others to focus on audacious and collective goals, that’s when unimaginable success happens. 
 

The future of design

 
As technology becomes ingrained in our daily lives, design built with and focused on the feeling it evokes in people is more important than ever. And the path to successful creativity and design is paved with a mix of data, intuition and design thinking and feeling. 
 
We approach design in our unique way at Google and always put the user front and center. The most important question we ask ourselves in that process is will this product help improve a user’s life and how will they feel using it. We want to make sure the answer to that question is an astoundingly positive and individualized reaction for everyone. That’s what drives me and my team on a daily basis. We want to push the boundary of what hardware products can do for the well-being of all that use them. 


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Categories: Consumer Electronics, Smart speaker

lbbonline.com, Thu, 04 Jul 2019 10:56:41 GMT