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November 23, 2018

Angela Guzman, Google’s Design Lead, On The World Of Design And Her Maiden Trip To India

Text by Zaral Shah

Days before The IDC kick-starts in Ahmedabad, we catch up with user interface and user experience designer Angela Guzman. Currently design lead at Google, she’s widely known as the ‘intern’ who – alongside her mentor – co-created Apple’s first set of emojis

In a nutshell, she bases her approach to design on three cardinal principles – less is more, form follows function and being mindful of the intuitive language. And today, Angela Guzman, design lead at Google, is sharing her knowledge through the famed 20 per cent project – an initiative that encourages employees to devote 20 per cent of their time to side projects – at Google. With a focus on design mentorship the project gives Guzman the opportunity to connect with budding UX (user-experience) designers from around the world. Her goal being to educate, inspire, and empower them by sharing her personal journey into the world of design.

In conversation with Guzman, we delve deeper into her thoughts about working with Google, the future of design and what a typical day in her life is like.

What is it like designing for Google? What about it excites you the most?

“Working at Google as a designer has been a fantastic journey. After having been at Apple and Airbnb and working on an array of applications that hundreds of millions of people use, Google has been a continuation of working on amazing products offered to users all around the world. It has also been the company where I’m officially manage a team of designers. This was a new chapter in my career, one that has taught me so much.”

Though often a confluence of the two, do you think design is being approached more from a utilitarian perspective or a visually appealing one?

“Currently, I think you can find either one of the two approaches. Although I enjoy designs most where functionality is deeply rooted within beautiful execution. When products only serve one purpose, to be useful for example, and totally disregard the visual details it isn’t successful in my mind. The design is typically complicated to digest, causing too many hurdles for the user. And in reverse, when the UI (user interface) is spot on but the application serves no purpose, I will never want to interact with it.”

What would you say is currently the greatest challenge in the world of design?

“Knowing when a design is complete regardless of the form factor, platform, application, etc. I find that we associate a ‘mature’ product with more features, more bells and whistles. When in fact a mature product should be one that feels complete. It doesn’t mean we should stop innovating, but we shouldn’t associate innovation with excess. Innovation can also equal design reduction, product stability, and performance.”

You were a part of the team that designed Apple’s original emoji set – something that has changed the way people communicate around the world. What has it been like seeing emojis grow into what they are today?

“Seeing Apple’s emoji pop-up in the physical world and how they have transformed the way we all communicate has been exciting to witness. While working on the design of these emojis as an intern for Apple back in 2008 I never imagined where these little icons would end up or how they would influence our mode of communication. I find myself taking photos of these emoji whenever I spot them, and sharing them with my then mentor, Raymond Sepulveda. He and I get a good laugh from this because they’re literally everywhere: billboards, toys, apparel, food, books, movies, and so on.
Personally, this was also one of the most challenging yet very exciting projects I’ve had the opportunity to work onIt was my first real job and was also the project that could offer me the opportunity to work at Apple as a full-time employee, which added a bit of pressure. On the other hand, this project was exciting as it allowed me to experience what it was like to work in tech, live in California, learn from some of the best designers and engineers in the world, and see first-hand how the iPhone team operated. It was also the first project I worked on where Steve Jobs approved the designs. For an intern, all this was a lot to feel excited about.

What is a typical day at work like for you?

“On a typical day, I arrive at the office by 9am, enjoy breakfast at one of the cafes, check in with my team, then head to my first meeting for the day. In between meetings, I jump onto the computer where I design layouts and flows or connect and collaborate with engineering, product managers, researchers, or other designers. Mid-afternoon, I grab lunch. Throughout the day I keep a close eye on projects that need to wrap up by the end of the week and organise my week based on those deliverables. Additionally, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to focus on design mentorship alongside my day-to-day design work as part of my 20 per cent project at Google.”

What are your thoughts on the upcoming India Design Confluence? What are you looking forward to on your trip here?

 “I’m most excited about meeting the students attending the conference and fellow designers who will be sharing their thoughts on design. The Indian Design Confluence brings together an array of industry experts across a number of fields — making it a rare opportunity to learn and connect with a diverse set of industry leaders and designers. This is also my first trip to India and I’m incredibly excited for a number of reasons. I have several friends from India and they often talk about their delicious dishes, gorgeous textile and jewellery designs, architecture and hospitality. I am really looking forward to my visit (and experiencing the rich cuisine and culture!).”

Where do you see the world of design going in the next decade or two?

“Based on my personal opinion, I would say the world of design is evolving towards more personalised experiences that are tailored to the individual. Meaning my experience using said product will be unique and will account for my likes, dislikes, habits, etc. It will also be a world where we will challenge the definition of what we currently think of UI/UX design because this type of design will blend with our environment more seamlessly, reducing some of the friction we encounter today. It will feel more natural.”

The 2018 India Design Confluence will be held at the Unitedworld Institute of Design, Ahmedabad from 23rd to 25th November, 2018.

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