Data, Not Design, Is King in the Age of Google

Google’s top visual (graphics) designer, Douglas Bowman, abruptly left for Twitter.  According to his blog post, Mr. Bowman left because Google the work environment became too data dependent, and stifling creativity and intuition.  Mr. Bowman said that “when a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data.”  He also expressed that “data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.”

Google does not appear to deny those claims.  According to a May 9th New York Times article, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, said in a recent television interview that “we let the math and the data govern how things look and feel.”

Google definitely has a lot going for it with its prominence on the web, good reputation, financial investments, and its myriad of services & products.  While it is understandable that Google wants to get things right, Mr. Bowman has a point.  As a company become dependent on data, it begins to loose its ability to take chances, make swift changes, and to approach things innovatively.

Google has a lot of innovative ideas & philosophies inbedded in its culture, but Google leadership should take Mr. Bowman’s warning to heart and beware of stifling creativity.


About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on May 11, 2009, in Google, Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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