Five things I learned hosting Google’s design podcast | Travis Neilson | Awwwards San Francisco

Five things I learned hosting Google’s design podcast | Travis Neilson | Awwwards San Francisco


hey I think I can kind of see you better
raise our hands how many of y’all are in California right now there’s a lot of
you guys in California I like it how many of you guys are at the Palace of
Fine Arts Theatre oh yeah how many you guys are at a design conference right now
Awwww wards one more time it’s gonna be the last time don’t tell
nobody some tell your boyfriend don’t tell your
mom don’t tell your business associates because I’m probably gonna get a few
referrals after this project is over and I don’t want to act like I’m that
kind of designer that keeps on doing revisions after the contract is
fulfilled no wrong step there we go I’m gonna send you this file its marked
final project PSD – underscore final – check your
email you I sent it twice I marked it as urgent this last change ain’t no more changes
unless we transition to like an hour but of course out of the few options
that are sent over you picked the absolute worst one but that’s okay
because I’m gonna take the very best ones and put them on my portfolio anyway
because because I got good taste cuz I’m a designer and we do designs
baby alright I had nothing to do with my talk I just wanted to see if we could do
it I’m Travis and a few things about me I’m a designer mostly a musician kind of
whatever and an artist sometimes but mostly I’m a human and that’s really
important to me to like just be a human sometimes so let’s talk about humans
these these are my friends these are people that I’ve met because I have the
good fortune oh this is the title I have the good fortune of hosting Google’s
design podcast it’s called the Google method and y’all should open your phones
and subscribe No and so let’s talk about a few of the things that I’ve learned
from the amazing guests that I’ve had on the show and first when I start with
yen’s Riegel’s burger don’t worry we we use the Colombians our yen’s is the lot
of things but he started out at Google over 12 years ago as a designer
researcher and this was my first interview that I did for the show and I
was so nervous and he’s he’s such an eloquent person such an impactful
thinker and and he’s also quite generous and one of the great insights that yen’s
had early on in his career as a design researcher like talking to users and
seeing how they work he the way he described it to me that he found that
there was the friction that most people feel is in the seams of the product in
between things that we design and we don’t really take account
for this is a screenshot that kind of like really sparked him to kind of make
a program called product excellence and this is something we still talk about a
lot at Google today product excellence is something that we strive for energy
to achieve and you realize that that this the way that we can get there is to
stop thinking about the things that we create and start thinking about the
people who use them and so he instituted a program called meet the user and he
invited designers engineers product people everyone to just come and sit
with people who are using our products and watch them and see what they like
and see what they are frustrated with and to this point I think he’s had over
1,500 Googlers come through the meet the user program and he talks about that
moment where everyone just kind of has that light bulb come on and they’re like
oh my goodness these are real people using the things that we build I’m not
just writing code I’m not just like moving boxes around
I’m impacting people and that moment of inspiration that moment of Revelation is
I’m gonna let yen’s describe it if those insights involve people it’s even a bit
more powerful her sisters added connection with another human being it’s
not only the joy of the inside but it’s also the joy of the inside about a bit
of humanity that you may not have been so familiar with because I think it’s a
very common fail ability that you feel like oh yeah I’m a user I have people
around me that use the product I know how this works and people forget how
limited their bubbles sometimes are so we consciously pick people from
different walks of life to meet our engineers and our colleagues because
getting them bit uncomfortable to the boundaries of their day-to-day
experiences this useful incredible I want to introduce you to my other friend
August August I’ll erase is a really really interesting person I met him on
his second day at Google and after like a two-minute conversation I
was like can you please be on our podcast he’s an incredible thinker and
one of the things that he talked to me about on the episode is this framework
of thinking about how products impact people and it’s called MDA this is kind
of often seen in like videogames and it stands for mechanics dynamics aesthetics
and this is kind of like a layering kind of thing and I’ll explain it this way in
videogames we have the mechanic of you know pressing the button and then Mario
does is kind of like jump and how how good does that feel when you press the
button and see the response is how well the mechanic is crafted and then you can
start layering these mechanics when you press the Run button and then a jump and
then you have like a horizontal jump so the the dynamics are kind of like this
runtime moment where all of these mechanics are adding up to a dynamic of
people actually using the product or experience and the aesthetic is how do
they feel about it how are they what’s their response to those dynamics and
mechanics the thing that he noted which was so interesting to me is that as
creators as designers we only have control over one aspect of this whole
stack we can just control the mechanics and I really love how Auguste took this
framework MDA and pushed it a little further and talked about what’s the next
layer I’m gonna play a quote for from August yeah if we think about zooming in
and out of how we perceive a system from a designer’s point of view we focus
mostly on the mechanic level we design and then stuffing zooming out
of it then there’s the dynamic level zooming
out even further there’s the aesthetic level and the
question that I posed as well what happens if you zoom out further than
that well I would call it a state of being in other words what is the sum
total of all your aesthetic responses at any given moment in time and well that’s
really your state of being at that moment Auguste teaches us that the
mechanics that we design accumulate accumulate of Lee can add up and create
and add to someone’s total state of being and I love that because again this
this deep thinking person is always bringing it back to like what are humans
like the same we saw with yen’s what are humans like let’s show people who work
on these products what humans are like and in August the same under introduce
you to my friend Roxanne Roxanne is incredible I call her rocks because
we’re friends and she’s a senior content strategist and UX writer she works on
flights but she sits in this really interesting position where she’s a
writer but she works really heavily with machine learning and just really quickly
about machine learning like how that works
machines have a hard time understanding humans and speaking to humans and so
I’ll just here’s an example um if I have a shoe and I want to teach a machine
what a shoe looks like then I’m gonna give it hundreds of thousands of
photographs of shoes and then I’m like what’s this and it goes I know what that
is is the shoe that’s how machine learning works and it’s it’s really it’s
not great at speaking human speaking to humans but it’s great at understanding
patterns and making predictions so we use machine learning in different ways
for example helping you find the best route understanding traffic patterns
for translation making recommendations where do you want to go for dinner or
what theme park looks amazing or what time it’s busy and then also flights
which is where Roxanne works and she explained to me something like where
this friction happens and a lot of people when they’re checking flights
they they they have a flow that could last a few days they go back and then
back and forward check it again and and oftentimes the prices are you know
they’d fluctuate so Google use machine learning to try to predict where the
prices will be in the next few days where they’ll land where the if they go
up they’ll like let you know and the responses were like hey why are you guys
changing the prices of these flights and Roxanne explained like this is this is a
human problem the machine is doing its job but we’re not translating it we’re
not teaching it to speak to humans in the way that humans need to be spoken to
and the key component in there again is humanity and is being able to address
that humanity in the ways that we like to be addressed so I’m gonna let Roxanne
talk about what the key factor is there it’s a lot about empathy there’s a lot
of instances with any product that are really about being a human and thinking
about humans using the product this is like this is like the flag that I always
start waving whenever anybody starts talking about human centered anything
I’m like wait a minute let’s talk about errors I know for like what do you mean
I’m like so fun at a party I love talking about when things go horribly
wrong what do we do and it seems like a right like if you’re thinking about
launching this exciting new product you’re super stoked and like thinking
about the happy path and we’re gonna like save the world and that Ria’s gonna
get everything that they ever wanted for Christmas it’s gonna be amazing you’re
not really thinking about when it just doesn’t work so you think about these
situations from the users perspective and how you would speak to them in that
moment if you cared about them and one of them to continue to engage with you I
guess that’s the assumption but you actually have to like people really like
people and thankfully I really like about that idea is um you know during my
like formative years in design reading all the design books I could ever
scrounge up and kind of like watching all the videos and all that it was all
about that the tactical skills how do I build this thing how do I make this
thing maybe how do I present or whatever but Rox is telling me the most important
fundamental thing is that you just gotta like people this is the reason that
we’re doing this and I’m like wait how have I been doing this this long and I
never even thought that I should like people next one introduce you to my
friend Peter Peter Jin Hong is a cognitive scientist and UX researcher he
was really helpful when we were doing job search so the idea is that people
who are looking for employment can type in what type of jobs are looking for
directly into Google and we can find those jobs that fast and easy for you
and kind of like or to organize them in the way that we think would be helpful
to you um Peter helped in in the product called jobs for veterans which and I’m
learning this too but when you’re in the military and you’re trained in a
specific area you’re given a code and that code kind of follows you around
into it describes your skillset and it makes it easier to understand what you
have been trained in and what you can apply it to so Peter was instrumental in
helping us understand that if we just put these make a place for veterans to
put these codes into then we can start describing and recommending jobs that
are directly related to their skillset and I want to let Peter describe why he
did this we have a canvass of hundreds of thousands to millions and you affect
people’s relationship with themselves in the world through these artifacts and
projections the reason I want to work on job search was helping humanity and that
sounds goofy I know but like Travis you know me and that’s actually been the the
way I almost fell all my mad lives for working on things yakking on social good
and working with org and working with you on crisis response but for me when I
say helping humanity it’s got an Asterix on it because I feel like we have such
great passion for all the technology that were enabling and the technology
needs to really be balanced with more understanding of humanity because that’s
how we can truly help humanity if we know what makes us tick what makes us
scared what makes us inspired what makes us push ourselves and job search is
because job search is about one of the scariest things in your life and about
having agency and dignity and the ability to stand tall and feed your
family and these are big things but you know when you just hear job search you
don’t realize it means all those other things but it does mean those things
whenever I hear Peter speak I’m always impressed with how much he cares about
how people feel and what they’re going through there’s a lot of research that
he did about how people can understand information in stressful moments and you
may know this but when people are looking for employment it can be it can
be really really chaotic it can be really stressful we did studies where
people would they’re called diary studies everyday people would log in and
just describe to us how their job search is going over time we saw that people
were telling us things that they weren’t even telling their spouses it’s so
intimate and there’s a writing right your ego your sense of
self and and Peter makes this really great point that and we’re constantly
trying to evolve our products and make them better and make them more usable
and make you know get those numbers up those are rookie numbers but balancing
that technology with an understanding of humans and what it means to be a human
is the is the only way that we can make sure that this technology is actually
useful and actually worth it in the long run and we need to have more of that
inside of the things that we build lastly I want to introduce you to my
friend Margaret Margaret is incredible and she is the the director of culture
and community at Google and I’m she’s another one of these people that I met
at a dinner and I was like Margaret let’s just do this like let’s talk on
the on the podcast and and I was so inspired with Margaret and her message
so the this slide here she had in the middle of our discussion I was looking
at one of her slide decks which had these three photographs on it we’re
talking and I in the middle of our recording I turn my laptop around and
showed her her own slide I said Margaret tell me what I’m not seeing about this
slide here and then she just kind of started telling me this story about her
past in her history and about her father and her hopes for her children and and I
was so like overwhelmed by it was an incredible moment to be in that room
that I took Margaret’s podcast episode and I kind of
remixed it with my toy and I’m gonna play that for you now my dad on the left he has a suit on and
it is probably from when he was about 15 and it’s the documentation you don’t see
the rest of it there but I know it’s there
describing every birthmark on him and he looks so serious he’s in a Sunday’s best
right because he wants to come to this country he’s escaping poverty in the
countryside many men of his generation were leaving China at that time in the
40s to make a better life and to send money back home and that wasn’t uncommon that’s what’s behind that photo it’s probably a rare day off only take
one day off a week and he worked 51 weeks a year so it was rare for us to be
able to go to the park and it’s one of the few photos I have and then on the
right there Sophie’s doing some salute or another I don’t remember exactly when
the photo was taken but she’s probably about five or sexy in cheek is anything
big changes and Beach eating cheese you know like oh you know you know we’re
just a point in a continuum you know we’re just a point you know we’re just a
point in a continuum you know and really I think what I wanted to do and having
these photos be side by side is just say you know we’re just a point in a
continuum you know life goes on life was here before us and life will be here
after us what kind of contribution can we make you know we all have our
particular struggles and all of our particular victories but in the end it’s
what are we what are we leaving behind she’s incredible energy so this like a
little soft promo I put those things on youtube if you
want to check them out little music boxes and we’re done thank you for
listening to my talk

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