(this article was written in September 2015 as a response to the Google re-design)
In September 2015 Google introduced us to their new digital identity. As you can imagine, the design community was furious and outraged as ever. Of course, the loudest voices filled with criticism far from being productive or constructive.
It happens every time a big company launches a rebrand. The outrage is intense, but rarely lasts longer than two or three weeks.
But every time these things happen, there is one thing I think about: No one has ever designed & implemented a digital identity on such a massive scale. There are few who understand the implications or what it takes to get it done. Even other companies that are close to Google, still not reach the diversity of products Google has to offer.
The challenges of redesigning Google are without question, unique.
I don’t even need to go into the specifics here. But chances are high that 99% of designers out there have never worked on a project like this. Still, a lot of designers think to know better. Design is a spectator sport, after all.
“Dogs bark at things they don’t understand.”
But this article isn't so much about Googles re-brand. Big projects like these are unique and offer fantastic learning opportunities for all of us. We should be curious and not judgmental. Especially if it’s something that is not in our field of expertise.
The moment the new Google identity launched I was both curious & proud. Proud because I know the struggle myself from the Spotify I worked on a few years ago. Proud because every designer, regardless in what company, is my buddy. Proud because I can only imagine the politics & technical difficulties to overcome in a company of 60.000 employees, serving billions of people.
I was curious because I felt that this is a unique situation where we can learn. Not because the Google design team is smarter than anyone else, but because they just launched something into the wild that takes huge effort and involves tons of risks. Now we can all watch it unfold & learn from it. Risk free at least for us, the spectator.
I’m curious to learn about why things look & work the way they do. Understand what the Google team struggled with, and how they plan to improve the identity in the future.
Curiosity means that we are open to the possibility that we may not know everything about a certain situation. It’s the willingness to remain open to the unknown, regardless of how smart we think we are.
Especially for complex projects or situations, I can promise you that chances are high that you or me know less than 10% about what’s actually going on.
When Google introduced the new identity, I was filled with questions because I was curious to hear more about it. This isn’t about if you like or dislike the logo. No one cares about it, we’re not on Dribbble here.
Google isn’t trying to be a life style brand, asking you to wear their logo on your leather jacket. They’re not aiming to feel luxurious, quite the opposite. Google aims to be approachable, friendly & even tries to appear smaller than they actually are. A prestigious brand is exactly what Google does not want to be.
If their current identity will help them succeed? Maybe, but neither you or I have the ability or data to decide that just yet. Even if Google is completely wrong with everything they do, so what? Who can qualify that other than the Google team?
When we stumble upon a project like this, we can take it as a unique opportunity to grow as a curious spectator. We can not only master our emotions, but we can turn all judgments into curiosity. Even if the redesign sucks, how we respond is still our choice. There is no contribution made by stating your opinion as truth — Which is essentially what judgment is.
I got reminded of this quote by Viktor E. Frankl.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
What happens when we just react and complain about something? Nothing, we shut down our ability to learn something new and close our eyes. We are no smarter than before, and on top of that, we just offended someone.
As designers, we grow from new experiences and especially from those of our peers. Kindness goes a long way, but it also fosters more kindness. It takes strength & patience to be kind, I understand that.
Being an ass online is easy. Public shaming is easy while lecturing someone in front of hundreds or thousands is also easy. But showing compassion & empathy instead is where we grow as a person. Even if we might disagree, those who ask questions will always be more powerful than those who don’t.
We can also show compassion by providing valuable & constructive feedback. Sharing our voice is important, it just comes down to how we do it.