Are Google’s interfaces to be “designed” now?

Douglas Bowman is joining Google as Visual Design Lead. So what? People seem to be thrilled. Om Malik writes: „a likely end to the mishmash, drab and boring user interfaces from Google. Yeah!” This announcement made me click through Bowman’s company website and i stopped at the philosopy page where he gives a definition of his understanding of design. It is an interesting read. It starts with:

Design constructs a visual language for the purpose of communication.”

That means, design is about visual subjects and does not affect other, e.g. functional issues. Further:

It organizes and gives form to a message in a way that adds value and meaning.”

In the way it is said here, design is an add‐on to a (previous given) message. Added values are accessibility, attention and beauty in Bowman’s words.

I wonder how this philosophy will fit together with the Google style and culture.

For sure, Google’s applications are not very exciting in terms of typography and graphic design. But they get the balance between visual presence and lots of functionality. In other words: they are not too ugly and not too beautiful.

Visual presence of Google? Yes! Google always had a very strong visual brand. I very well remember the Google story in 2000. At this time i used Altavista for searching and my boss gave me the link to Google. I thought the „ooooo„s were funny and dropped Altavista. Then a collegue of mine from London came up with alltheweb.com, a search engine from FAST (Now alltheweb.com is owned by Yahoo).

I compared the search results with Google and i clearly found that the FAST engine was far better than Google. But the interface was grey and boring. Google was funny. All my other collegues used Google because it was funny and good enough. (I also switched to Google when they bought deja.com, that was something FAST did not have). But Google was (and still is) NOT the best search.

The tipping point was the funny logo and i am sure it was not created by a designer.

It will be very interesting to watch how Bowman will influence Googles interfaces. Will they do more visual design? Add value or meaning to Google applications? Or nothing happens? Time to take some screenshots for the archive.

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