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.


Three predictions on the future of mobile tech

Inspired by the 40th anniversary of the first ever mobile phone call I wrote a piece for the Somo blog on where I see the mobile going in the near future.

40 years ago today the first mobile phone call was made by Martin Cooper at Motorola, who called a rival at another telecoms company to gloat that he was first to call from a cellular phone. Well done Motorola, you kicked off something huge!

Martin Cooper

Fast-forward 40 years and mobile phones have come a long way – today, a mobile ‘phone’ means more to us than a way to make phone calls. Modern smartphones are super-computers in our pockets with a phone antenna attached. Smartphones allow us to communicate in new ways – we text, we email, we post to social media, we communicate via pictures and video, we read, we consume. We look to our smartphones to entertain us; we play games, listen to music in new ways, and even augment traditional pass times such as TV or magazines. Our smartphones are widely considered our most personal device and we trust them to hold our most personal details – our memories, our bank details, even the keys to our homes.


Just as Martin Cooper and co. would no doubt have trouble predicting where their mobile phone would end up in 40 years, we too have the same trouble (I’m going with something to do with lasers), however, we can make some good guesses on where mobile will be in a few years.


 The ‘phone’ bit is most likely to go!

We know that smartphones are more like computers than phones. According to O2 only 9% of time is now spent using the voice functionality of the modern smartphone, with 11% time spent playing games, and 19% browsing the internet. Usage is shifting, and after getting 3G on my iPad mini, I can personally see how an ‘always connected’ device without phone functionality is still extremely useful. Plus, calls can be made using VOIP when needed.


 ’Mobile’ devices are more than phones

Whilst tablets have been around for a long time, the iPad’s launch in 2010 suddenly forced us to question the role of these new devices. Were they mobile? Now we consider tablets as a mobile device and have to plan experiences accordingly to work across different screen sizes and user contexts. With Google Glass coming, the rumoured iWatch / Android watch, even persistently connected cars, how do we treat these? They are certainly mobile but they offer new screens, new contexts, new ways to think about the term ‘mobile’.


All companies will think mobile

Whilst many companies have ventured into mobile, many have still not. Accessing content, sites, or experiences will happen away from the traditional desktop computer. Brands, content providers, and companies of all shapes and sizes will offer solutions to cater for this. Whilst there will be those that are better than others, I cannot imagine a world where companies are not offering content tailored to the mobile user.


We don’t know where exactly the mobile phone will be in the future, but be sure that we will keep you informed every step of the way.


Congratulations Mr. Cooper, we salute you! Without your first phone call Somo would not be here.

Rapid prototyping Google Glass – by an experience designer in Google’s X team

Google are starting to talk a lot about Glass, releasing a video yesterday entitled How It Feels [through Glass].


This reminded me of a great video by Tom Chi, an experience designer in Google’s X team, explaining how quickly they created prototypes for Glass.

via Only Dead Fish


It’s tempting to think that the prototyping for a project such as Google Glass would have been a complex, lengthy process lasting months if not years but this short, charming talk from Tom Chi (experience designer in the Google X team) gives a fascinating insight into how their process of creation was greatly accelerated through rapid prototyping. The first prototype was built in an hour using coat hangers, a tiny projector and a piece of plexiglass. Subsequent prototypes took even less time and used materials as diverse as paper, clay, modelling wire, chopsticks and hairbands. From these models they were able to glean useful insights into the social awkwardness of gesture controls which led to them dropping fetaures which had been thought integral. As Chi says, “Doing is the best kind of thinking”. Fascinating.