Irene Au

When Google’s renowned visual design lead, Douglas Bowman, left the search giant at the end of March, he wrote a passionate blog post about his reasons for quitting. He claimed that the company’s reliance on data was so extreme, it prevented it from making any daring design decisions, and quoted one instance when a team couldn’t decide between two blues, so were testing 41 shades between each of the choices to see which one performed better. Bowman’s post sparked a heated debate on the web.

Irene Au, director of user experience at Google, acknowledges that Bowman is an extraordinary designer who made huge contributions to the company’s products. However, she insists there’s a clear logic behind Google’s approach. “It’s very much a culture of experimentation,” she explains. “We often will put things out on an experimental framework and look at how they perform, and use that to drive our design decisions. Search is the interface that most of our users are familiar with and so what goes into the search interface is really what drives our visual language. Search is such a fragile interface. It’s humbling to see how the slightest changes in design, just pixel-level changes or barely perceptible changes to colours, can have such a dramatic impact on usage and revenue. At Google, we’re in a unique position to measure the impact of design on the business, and we take advantage of that opportunity to make design decisions based on evidence.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of eight full-time members of staff: Editor Georgia Coggan, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Ecommerce Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Editor, Digital Art and 3D Ian Dean, Tech Reviews Editor Erlingur Einarsson and Ecommerce Writer Beth Nicholls and Staff Writer Natalie Fear, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.