Making the rounds is this blogpost by Douglas Bowman, Google's (former) Visual Design Leader, where he explains his frustration with Google's overly engineered approach to measuring the impact of minor design changes, for example,
Yes, it's true that a team at Google couldn't decide between two blues, so they're testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4, or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can't operate in an environment like that. I've grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions.
CNet's Stephen Shankland adds,
I can't speak for Bowman's experience, though I can see how a classical designer might feel stifled by code monkeys. There are plenty of considerations that go into design in general, and pragmatism can be at odds sometimes with passion, boldness, and innovation. And Bowman earlier was a designer at Wired, which is definitely at the bold end of the spectrum.
Overall, however, I find Google's approach to design refreshing and radical in its own way. Choosing color shades and pixel widths on the basis of the behavior of millions of Web page users is a fascinating development to the form-follows-function school of design.
It seems to me there's a continuum between the extremes of decision making from the purely subjective - a designer saying "because I like it" and the absolutely objective -"millions of users click on this shade of blue". As companies seek to measure the impact of their investment in design, is there a need for a balance between the two approaches? Or simply the gamble of taking one over the other? What do you think? In the meantime, one can't help but note this very same "company is filled with engineers" flies in the face of convention with their ever changing logo.