My Notes from Fabio Sasso “Design is not Final, Failure is not Fatal”

I’m at the Reasons.to conference in Brighton this week and just attended a nice talk from Fabio Sasso, senior designer at Google titled Design is not Final, Failure is not Fatal.

The talk was a personal tale of how Fabio overcame a personal fear of feeling unworthy to his fellow designers, how a robbery prompted him to start his own blog as a file backup system, and how everyone should put themselves ‘out there’ more.

Fabio also talked about:

  • Starting as a way to backup his design work after a break in, he started his blog Abduzeedo which led to him creating tutorials for people that were starting their careers
  • When Fabio got a post on the front page of Digg his blog boomed – from ~100 views a month up to over 10,000 in a matter of hours. It led to the blog being featured in Wired and other publications
  • Share what you know – there is no reason to keep things to yourself
  • Fabio used to think that ‘better people’ would do the sharing and therefore he shouldn’t, and that if he did people would say ‘he sucked’. However, someone somewhere will find your content useful
  • Sharing gives you motivation and pushes you improve
  • People asked how can he make money when he is sharing his work? However, in the long-term he got great opportunities through his blog which came from openly sharing
  • “We are the ones that put barriers in our lives”
  • Balancing blog with work – do it at night and weekends. It’s all about enjoying learning new things. A blog can be a place to try stuff that can’t do at work, i.e. at work Fabio can’t mess about with the Google home page but can try something radical on his own blog
  • Regarding the design process at Google: with new products such as Wallet there is a lot of time on user research because it is a a new product. They need to explore how to educate people to pay using a new device. Lots of time is spent understanding how the audience would behave. Something like Google Search is different – it is a big team divided into small groups based around features
  • Google is hard to design for because the audience is so broad – from grandma to super technical users – it’s hard to balance
  • At Google, visual designers vary – some are not interested in pushing pixels, but prefer looking at the strategic impact of visual design on a product
  • RE: designers at Google coding… some do, some don’t. Some are purist visual designers, but there are some that code. Designers ‘have to code’ because you are designing from a specific medium, so you need to understand that medium
  • RE: worrying about likes and comments – sometimes people commenting aren’t even your audience or don’t understand why you made the design decisions. You see some design communities, like Dribbble, where many designers just redo the same style designs over and over and all comment saying they are all so good. This limits variation

Overall the talk was motivational, reiterating the fact that one should put oneself out there more, sharing more, and creating more. The benefits in the long run outweigh the fears and doubts in the short term.

Has the Role of the Google Glass Designer Reverted Towards an Art Director and Copywriter?

Will the lack of standard options throw the digital designer?

Will the lack of standard options throw the digital designer?

I recently ran a Google Glass hack day where ~40 developers and designers were tasked with pioneering new creative uses for Google Glass. One of my favourite parts of the day was when I briefly caught up with the head of design and I asked how his team was doing. He said to me that his input as a designer using the mirror API was limited and often his design choices were reduced to choosing an image, a few words, maybe an icon or two, and the use of colour to get his key message across. This made me question: is the role of the Glass designer more similar to a traditional art director and copywriter than it is to a digital designer?

Google Glass currently only let’s you design content through the Mirror API where only cards of images, copy, icons, and colours are permitted. As Glass places content directly into your field of vision, choosing the right content is essential to stay relevant and therefore installed. This means the choice of image, copy, and iconography is more important than ever before and a designers role is now more to choose the perfect image, write (or work with someone to write) the perfect short form copy, and use iconography and colour in significant, meaningful ways on the tiny real estate.

Designing for the Glass Mirror API calls for considered, concise design choices. Whilst designing for a smartphone app could be compared to writing a blog post, with room for flourish and explanation, designing for Glass is like composing the perfect tweet, say only what is relevant with minimal media attached to get your point across in a couple of seconds.