This topic has been blowing up all over the design world online. For the full blog post from Bowman Lead Visual Designer at Google visit his blog.
The quick summary is this. He left because of design V.S. engineering issues. The article goes on to talk about the almost obsessive need to validate and back up every design decision with statistical data. While it is true that design does have a logical component a lot of how we precieve design varies from person to person. That is why it is necessary to hire a person with experience and knowledge of fundamental design principles.
From the blog post Bowman goes on to say:
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades of 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. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
I’ve been in this boat more times then I can count. And while most of the blogosphere is jumping on these statements as being the reason for his leaving. Personally I believe it was a series of design by committee driven ideals that pushed him out the door. I’ve been there, and sometimes you just don’t want to fight the battle any more. This is especially true if you have constantly fought about the same issue (s)over and over again. IE: This color is wrong, This should be an image, I want sound on my homepage, etc…
When Is Enough Enough?
At what point do you either a just not care, or b continue to fight and push your own insanity to the breaking point. As UI designers we fight these challenges every day. It is no easy task and sometimes only your passion for exceptional design can get you through the next day, project, or year.
In one way it is comforting to see that even huge “cutting” edge companies fight and struggle with these issues. In another way, it is sad to see design and aesthetics reduced to a mere algorithm. This is especially disheartening when you are considered the expert and were hired for your skills, experience, and love of great design.
No one can work in an environment where they are praised for superior skills one moment and then second-guessed the next.
when I have worked with teams of designers and lost one of the flock it can be morally crushing. This is even more so if the reason for the team member leaving is due to design difference. In the case of google it appears machine v.s. man has won this round.