Google’s Matias Duarte wants to break away from the grid of icons

Matias Duarte

Google’s Matias Duarte has a daunting task ahead of him, as does Google as a whole, when it comes to the design of the things we use every day. But it sounds like he’s up to the challenge.

Design, both in hardware and software, is one of the more fundamentally important aspects to pieces of technology. It’s vital to a device’s success, whether that’s a smartphone, a computer, or something in between. If it’s not easy to use, comfortable to hold, or any other aspect isn’t met by the designers behind-the-scenes, consumers aren’t shy about voicing their opinions of dissatisfaction.

For Google’s Matias Duarte, the company’s Vice President of design, speaking to WIRED, it’s crucial in the years ahead. In the next ten, in fact, Duarte wants to build a mesh of information that bridges the gap between your computer at home and the smartphone in your pocket, but he also admits to succeed in this, he has to see people change the way they interact with technology. But he sees a big milestone in the works, even comparing what’s happening in the digital interactive space as a modern-day Industrial Revolution:

“I see what we’re doing now in this digital interactive space as a kind of industrial revolution. But there’s a real risk, there’s a real risk of stagnation.”

Speaking about design, especially in terms of the devices we use most often –our smartphones– inevitably connects to Apple and the iPhone. It’s been eight years since Steve Jobs introduced the world to the original iPhone, but not much has changed when it comes to the way we interact with the core experience. While Apple, and Google and Microsoft, have all introduced new ways of looking at the information, or even getting to it, at the surface we’re still all simply interacting with rows of app icons on a screen.

Duarte says that this is still the case, many years on, because Apple managed to crystallize a moment in time, which almost immediately turned into a standard across the board, and was aped by so many other entities in the same space. The designer says that it was easy to “settle on standards that are sub optimal,” which is hard to break out of:

“It’s easy for things to settle on standards that are sub optimal. Its very for things to catalyse into local maxima that are hard to break out of.”

And while Apple’s success, and dominance, in the smartphone market seems easy at this point so far ahead of the first iPhone’s launch, and subsequent devices and software that have launched since from other companies, Duarte says that the iPhone’s, and Apple’s, success wasn’t guaranteed:

“Frankly it’s not a world where the best package wins. It would’ve been very easy, if Apple had been a year later to market, that instead the market’s expectations of what a smartphone should be crystallised around something that’s more like what the Blackberry was.”

Duarte does admit that the release of the iPhone, and even the crystallization of that aforementioned standard, was a “fairly positive” moment for the industry. However, things haven’t changed, and, as such, the idea of manually curating a list or grid of apps and icons can feel “very heavy and burdensome.”

“But it also crystallised a lot of other things that were kind of stayed even by that point, like the rows of icons, which don’t scale very well. This idea of a tiny grid that you manually curate starts to feel very heavy and burdensome.”

There is a lot of room for change and evolution, as Duarte notes to WIRED. It’s still a new industry, designing websites, phones and apps, so the future is a bright one:

“When we talk about phones and websites and apps, this is an incredibly young medium still. It’s changing very quickly and it’s still almost at this raw industrial state.”

You can check out the full interview through the source link below, which is a nice look at what Google’s VP of design is viewing the world ahead, and how it can impact all of us with the devices we use every day.

[via WIRED UK; image via Bloomberg]

Like this post? Share it!