Feb 25, 2013
Google is a company that is not normally known for design. Particularly compared to Apple, Google and Android are seen as the ugly duckling. However, Google definitely does not deserve this reputation still. While carriers continue to butcher Android for their own designs, the OS has definitely inherited a great look in 4.x, and later versions of 4.2.x have restored the performance quality to devices that have used it. Changes that once seemed foreign now feel natural. Even the decision to make the Nexus 7 compatible with landscape orientations has gone very well for the usability and design of the OS.
But it’s not just Android that’s seeing Google’s forays into designs.
The Chromebook Pixel seems to be one big foray for Google into this market: what they’re trying is to sell a sleek, stlyish, device with high-end features but a low-end OS at a price that may appeal to those curious about the MacBook Pro and its Retina Display, but that don’t need or want all the features, or want a touchscreen along with their laptop. It’s a curious mix of both the Chrome OS objective of lower-priced computing, but while still delivering a high-end experience.
Where Google is going to really need to focus their efforts on style and design is going to be with Google Glass. Functionality will be part of it, but the issue right now is that the technology seems so alien. Granted, it’s not in a consumer-ready state but it’s getting very close to being there, possibly by year’s end. So, if it does manage to get to that point, it will require that the device be something more than just a strange visor, it will eventually need to reach a point where the technology can integrate with familiar vision equipment, and be something that people can feel like they can use without getting weird looks. Granted, some people will like that, but mass-market acceptance will require that. Talking with eyeglass makers like Warby Parker is a fantastic start.
That, and a mass-market-friendly price point. If it can link up to Android devices as well, then it could be a master of synergy.
The thing that Google can’t forget is that form still follows function. So while the NExus 4 might look nice with its glass back, when a phone’s screen can reportedly break just from normal heat, and can slip off of even slightly angled surfaces (And break) then perhaps a reminder needs to be issued that it’s not always about design. Make good functional products THEN make them look good.