Google services used to be anti-design. Plain-vanilla text everything. Ugly, boring and functional, Google products used minimal graphics, design and layout. But now, every new Google service exhibits a new, sophisticated design sensibility. The old ones do, too. The company has re-designed all its core services to match the beautifully designed Google+ design. The social network’s incredible Circles Editor and other features of the social network represent a 180-degree turn from the historic Google zero-design sensibility. They’re still minimalist. But they’re beautiful, with form and function uniting into an appealing whole.
The use of red throughout the new Google designs is particularly savvy. Google now uses the color red for every point on the page that demands action or attention.
There’s also persuasive rumor-mongering that Google’s hiring this week of Digg founder Kevin Rose, as well as some of the employees of Rose’s startup, Milk, was all about design. Apparently key engineers were not hired, but designers were. The idea is that Google’s new-found obsession with design is actually now driving acquisitions.
When the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt battled in a war of words over iOS and Android, Jobs slammed Google’s platform as “fragmented” and Apple’s as “integrated.”
Apple historically launched, say, iPhone hardware, iTunes software, Internet services, apps like Mail, Phone, Safari, Messages and others all “integrated” together into a cohesive, singular user “experience.”
Google historically launched each product a la carte. Here’s Search. There’s Gmail. Docs is over there. Orkut is in Brazil. Each Google service was unconnected to the others.
The changes Google has undertaken in the past year involve moving Google from its historical fragmented approach to Apple’s integrated approach.
Gmail isn’t just Gmail. Gmail is now part of Google+, which is baked into Search, which integrates Translate, and so on. In fact all these formerly disparate services and many others are being gradually integrated into a single product called Google.
The confusion about Google these days is easily clarified by understanding this basic fact about the company: Google is becoming more like Apple.
Instead of being devoid of vision, blind to design and taking a shotgun approach to pumping out fragmented products, Google is aggressively becoming visionary, design savvy and is integrating products for the benefit of users and advertisers alike.
Ultimately, the confusion arises from the fact that no major tech company has ever made this transition before. But breaking all the rules isn’t new for Google. It’s the one constant that has always existed for the company.
So instead of being confused, disgruntled, annoyed and paranoid about Google’s transformation, let’s instead simply understand it. Google is becoming more like Apple. And that’s a good thing.