Design matters. AG Lafley says so. Debbie Millman says so. Virginia Postrel says so. Every creative profession and design industry says so (and have done so for years). Is there anyone who has not got the news?
Google apparently has not got the news. Yesterday it produced the Google calender. This will prove a useful part of their " giant killer" strategy.
But did they maximize the opportunity? Well, no. For some reason Google decided to not to add value by adding design. Here’s what they are showing on line at the moment. It’s clean. It’s also bland as can be.
What’s the issue here? How does design add value? Why does Google calendar disappoint?
1) we live our lives in the wind tunnel of contemporary culture. Data howls past us. We are Floridians in a data storm.
2) people need us to take information and make decisions. Preferably by lunch time. Certainly by the end of the business day.
3) most of us are always 2 or 3 data points away from chaos. ("That roof’s about to go. Get in the basement!")
Good design serve us especially well these days when it cools the world down. The iPod, for instance, takes many functions and makes them available in a very quiet package. All that music in an elegant little container. "Ah," we say, "that’s better."
Certainly, it’s about functionality. How well does the calendar capture, organize and deliver temporality? But a great calendar should make us feel areodynamic…as if we can stand in the wind tunnel of contemporary life with suffer undue damage to our senses or our wits. Increasingly, clarity will be the value that brands make available to us.
I believe Google won the search engine war partly because it gave us such an elegant interface. (Better than Alta Vista. Way better than Yahoo which always looked like a dog’s breakfast.) All those million and millions of pages out there on the net? "Nevermind," said Google design. "This is your gateway." One simple, very cool frame. "Ah," we said, "that’s better."
But somehow this design sensibility did not find its way throughout the Google corporate culture, and now that we need it most, with the calendar that promises to bring order to our chaos, elegance has given way to a Protestant plainness that says effectively, "God but your life is a mess. What is the matter with you?"
I believe that engineers are perhaps the community most resistant to the design message that has transformed the world of P&G, Target, Chrysler, Motorola, Apple, Six Apart, Starbucks, W Hotels, JetBlue, and us all. Finally, this is a community that in its heart, at its core, believes that design is something you add after the fact. Build the functionality. Hang the tinsel. Done.
I would have thought that Google understand that design matters. Maybe not so much.
McCracken, Grant. 2005. Design and the corporation. This blogs sits at the… October 25, 2005. here.
Millman, Debbie. Design Matters, broadcast Fridays between 3.4 EST on VoiceAmerica here.
Today, Debbie is interviewing William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand are partners in Winterhouse (here). Drenttel is president emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, a trustee of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities at NYU. Jessica Helfand is Senior Critic at Yale School of Art.
Nussbaum, Bruce. 2005. Target is a great design innovator. here.
Reingold, Jennifer. The Interpreter [on design at P&G]. Fast Company. June. here.