Our review of the year continues with an interview with the team behind Google’s in-house rebrand.
When the UK woke up on the first of September 2015, the front page of the internet had changed and people were in a bit of a flap about it. It’s been quite a year for Google on many levels, the redesign preceded the announcement of a major restructuring and creating of Alphabet (of which Google would be a subsidiary) in October.
The new logo and identity has been designed to reflect the multitude of ways Google acts as portal to information. The designers began by distilling the Google identity down to its essence – four colours on a white background. The outcome, that caused seismic waves to career around the internet that autumn morning, was three elements: a new sans serifed logotype, the dots ‘A dynamic distillation of the logotype for interactive, assistive, and transitional moments,’ and the Google G, a compact version of the Google logo that works in small contexts.
It says something that we waited 16 years for this update. When the company name became a verb in the 2006 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, it was confirmation that we had fully submitted to a digital future. 2015 became the year when Google reasserted its brand values in its visual presence and set a benchmark for digital companies looking to achieve the same. The project was a such a success as it retains everything that asserted the Google presence, but allowed the company to reflect its function and influence in a way that embraces, and anticipates, the exponential evolution of technology and the way we interact with information.
Below, we speak to Alex Cook, Jonathan Jarvis and Jonathan Lee, respectively from Google’s Search department, Creative Lab and Material Design.
What was your creative highlight of 2015?
ALL: Launching the new Google Logo. It’s a highmark for us in terms of craft and quality of execution, and it was a pretty great collaboration that we all learned from.
What was your lowlight of 2015?
ALL: (pointing at each other) working with these clowns.
What do you think are the markers of a good year creatively?
Jonathon Jarvis, Jonathan Lee, Alex Lee: a hit, a fail*, a mix – working on something formative and long term and working on something immediate that ships
*to learn from
Which piece of work from the last year has been your favourite to work on?
AC: Building up a native Android engineering team to design new experiences for Google Search and Maps.
JL: Material Design Award! It was fun to make a physical object and surprise developers for their great work.
JJ: The Androidify App!
Which piece of work from the last year do you feel has been most significant to your portfolio/career/company?
ALL: It’s a teeny tiny thing to most people, but updating Google’s identity and logo system was a really big, difficult project, so it’s definitely the most significant piece of work for us personally. It represents the collective effort of our teams, but also represents the work of thousands of Googlers, so it was a major priority to get it right for the future of our company and ultimately our users.
How has your work evolved over the last 12 months?
ALL: Serif to sans serif!
AC: learned so much from working with Creative Labs (Jonathan Jarvis) and Material Design (Jonathan Lee). My typical approach to design is to be a creative problem solver, but there are so many other ways a designer can look at the world: pioneer, storyteller, filmmaker or master craftsman.
JJ: Most of my projects these days start with the notion that we’ll be building something to work across a ton of different platforms: Android, browser, iOS, phone, watch, TV, auto, etc.
JL: I’ve been really encouraged to see design gain traction within Google, and the public’s positive reception of our work and thinking. I’ve been focusing on fostering that growth and connecting the two, a change for me, from just designing it.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt in the last year?
JJ: I learned a lot about discipline through animating the Google dots. We wanted to do so many different things, but wound up cutting most of them. Ultimately, it was worth it because the simplicity made the system better than any individual or particularly cool animation.
JL: Set goals and hire amazing people, the rest will work itself out.
AC: Pixels are never the problem — implementation and execution are the hardest parts of the job.
Who has been the most influential creative for you in the last year?
JL: The Eames Office was a trending topic within our team this year. They possessed the ability to blend design with engineering, manufacturing, and democratic principles – all while being joyful, human and beautiful. The best, for the most, for the least.
AC: Definitely the design teams here at Google. We get to see so many inspiring things every day.
JJ: My team and the designers here at Google. For real though!
Describe 2015 in five words.
All: Blue, red, yellow, green, white.
What are your hopes for 2016?
JJ: More dots, more motion, and more interactivity in the Google logo.
JL: More consistent, more expressive, and more Material.
AC: Same thing every year: a more beautiful Google.
Words by Owen Pritchard