Jan 27

Redesigning Google: how Larry Page engineered a beautiful revolution

When Page took office, his first directive was clear. “Larry said ‘hey everyone, we’re going to redesign all of our products,’” recalls Jon Wiley, lead designer on Google Search. Wiley and co had just two months to give Google a fresh coat of paint, and to start thinking holistically about how Google as a whole was perceived. “We had a mandate to make this all look good,” Wiley says.

It wasn’t the first time that Google’s designers had tried to unify the design language across multiple products, but it would turn out to be the most successful by far. “Historically at Google there were pockets of designers that said ‘let’s bring all of Google together into one beautiful, amazing design,’ but because of the way Google is set up — for speed — […] it was hard for any one team to push that Google-wide,” says Wiley. It’s not that there weren’t designers at Google before, it’s just that they weren’t moving in the same direction and they didn’t have as much authority as they needed.

“When I joined Google five years ago, there was no such thing as a common design language for our platform,” says Andrey Doronichev, Senior Product Manager for YouTube Mobile, “we always wanted to create beautiful applications, but our priorities were different.” A Google-wide design initiative “required the vision of a CEO,” says Wiley, “who could rally the entire company to make it happen.” Wiley codenamed Google’s new design direction Kennedy — a reference to Page’s now-famous “moon shot” strategy for thinking up new products.

Google’s senior designers gathered to decide how a few design principles would be applied evenly and tastefully to dozens of products used by over a billion people. There was also some “outside help” from Google Creative Lab, as Wiley described in a 2011 talk entitled “Whoa, Google has Designers!” Google Creative Lab is a collection of top-tier designers in the company’s New York offices, mostly known for creating unique and emotionally compelling marketing projects like a tear-jerking Super Bowl ad or the innovative Arcade Fire music video. Page tapped Creative Lab to work with the rest of Google’s designers on creating the new vision. Unlike Apple, Google is willing to work with outside parties on design, and that played a role in the creation of Kennedy. “What might a cohesive vision for Google look like?”, Page asked them.

Read the rest at the Verge: Redesigning Google: how Larry Page engineered a beautiful revolution | The Verge.

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