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Google designer quits over (41 shades of) the blues

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 24 Mar 2009 at 13:56

Douglas Bowman, Google's lead designer, is leaving the firm with a blast at the company's obsession with data over design.

Bowman joined Google three years ago as the lead visual designer. In a blog post, he claimed to be "not leaving just to leave", and went on to slam the web giant's design process.

Bowman claims the company relies too heavily on the wisdom of its many engineers, removing subjectivity and making 'yes or no' decisions based entirely on data. "And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralysing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions."

"Yes, it's true that a team at Google couldn't decide between two blues, so they're testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better," he said. "I had a recent debate over whether a border should be three, four or five pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case."

He added: "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."

However, he did also have praise for the firm, in particular how it treats its workers, saying he'd miss his talented co-workers, in addition to the free food, massages and, of course, the "early chances to play with cool toys."

"I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to work at Google," he said. "But I won't miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data."

Google could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.

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