How Google Got Its Design Game Together

Google has never been well known for design, but that has changed dramatically and quickly. Their design renaissance is proof of something I’ve always believed: great product design comes from an organization’s shared agreement on quality, supported from the top on down.

Essentially, any company looking to adapt or transform itself, around design-centric thinking, or any other approach, needs:

1) Unfettered Support from Leadership

The previous attempt at a redesigned Google failed to get traction (they weren’t able to mobilize enough inertia in the company to make change). It required the vision of someone who could rally the entire company. At the end of June 2011, just under three months after Page took over as CEO, Google shipped fresh new versions of Google Search, Google Maps, and Gmail, and Calendar.

VIDEO: The Verge Covers Google’s Design Renaissance

“There’s not one person who’s the grand leader of design at Google — We don’t have a single mastermind designer.”

2) A Shared Vision and Goal

Everyone The Verge interviewed repeated the mantra “one simple, beautiful, useful Google.” It took a lot of iteration and back and forth between different teams to come up with what feels like a very coherent design statement.

3) Iterate!

Also, notice that the design sketches here aren’t pretty, and suggest a process that’s highly iterative in low-fidelity, thinking through the UX of a product and carefully considering interactions, rather than simply dealing with visual aesthetics.