Hardware is nothing like software. “You can’t fix hardware through a new release or update,” says Ivy Ross. She’s leading the design team at Google, and this week Ross pulled back the curtain to reveal what some of the company’s newest products looked like before they became official.
Google’s approach to hardware, according to Ross, can be described as “human.” She explains that the company aims to create stuff that’s “friendly, emotionally-appealing and easy to fit into your life and home.” And that goes beyond just colors. The design chief adds that shapes and textures matter as much as anything. Examples include the fabric found on the Home Mini, Home Max, and Daydream View as well as the Pixel 2 and Pixelbook’s texture.
What you might find most interesting from the reveal of these various prototypes is the Pixel 2 and its lead up to the final design. Google appears to have always had the two-material finish with metal and glass in place, but the older iterations show different shapes and sizes. A few of them are shorter, and the edges are on the sharper side. One of them also has more than one sensor on the back paired with its camera, so who knows what Google was trying out.
If there’s anything Ross is particularly proud of, it’s the fabric used on Google’s smallest smart speaker. Apparently the Home Mini needed a “special construction to accomplish the simplicity” while still sounding great.
The interview was part of an in-house series called The She Word. Google sits down with women working at the company and allows them to tell their personal and professional stories in an open setting. Aside from talking about her work as the design team’s leader, Ross shared advice for women kickstarting their careers, who she looks up to as an influence, and how she became interested in design early on in life.
Take a look at the prototypes in our gallery above, and then head over to Google’s blog to read out Ross’ journey. And next time you touch your Google-made phone, laptop, smart speaker, or virtual reality headset you’ll have a better idea of why it’s designed that way.