Method Podcast, Episode 17

Google UX Director August de los Reyes on how abstractions can help designers craft powerful experiences

In this episode, host Travis Neilson interviews August de los Reyes, a UX director at Google, about considering a product’s cultural equity—its noneconomic and nonfunctional benefits—and how that influences a user’s state of being. De los Reyes also touches on everything from game and car design to Charles and Ray Eames’ documentary Powers of Ten, to illustrate how zooming in and out of designed systems can help bridge the gap between the designer’s intent and the user’s emotional response.

Want to learn more about the journeys and creative decisions of designers at Google? Subscribe to the Method podcast on Google PlayiTunesRSS, or Spotify.

A few highlights:

On the challenge of elegant design “Elegance is complexity described in a simple way ... I don't think simplicity is an end in itself. There can be things that are simple but not engaging or valuable. On the flip side, there are things that are just too complex to be meaningful. Where design can add value is through elegance—taking complex systems or complex ideas and presenting them in a very simple way.”

On the power of cultural equity “What helps drive a consumer towards one car rather than another? I’d argue that it’s neither its functional or economic value, but rather its cultural equity. And what generates that cultural equity is design.”

On what designers can learn from video games “The interaction of game design is so well-crafted, down to painstaking detail at the mechanical level. It's my hope that we can bridge that kind of care and thoughtfulness into other kinds of software.”

Handy info and links for this episode:

  • Google’s G Suite is a collection of cloud-based productivity software, products, and tools developed to enhance collaboration.
  • HBO’s Silicon Valley is an American comedy series about a computer programmer and his friends establishing a startup company in California.
  • Christopher Alexander’s Notes on the Synthesis of Form, was published in 1964 and centers around the process of design and inventing new ways to “display physical order.”
  • The best-selling video game series in history, Super Mario was created by Nintendo and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto. The iconic games follow Mario’s adventures in the fictional Mushroom Kingdom.
  • Learn more about the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework, an analytic tool developed by game designers Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek.
  • The two Powers of Ten films, written and directed by Charles and Ray Eames, depict the relative scale of the universe based on a factor of ten.

August de los Reyes is a UX director in the search and assistant organization at Google, where he leads an effort called ecosystem UX. Before joining Google he was head of design at Pinterest and Microsoft Xbox.