Designer quits Google over data focus

News 24 Mar, 2009

Douglas Bowman has left Google because its design philosophy 'lives or dies strictly by the sword of data'.

Douglas Bowman, Google’s lead designer, is leaving the firm – and he’s rumoured to be heading to Twitter.

Bowman joined Google three years ago as the lead visual designer. In a blog post, he claimed to be “not leaving just to leave”, but went on to slam the web giant's design process.

Criticising Google’s focus on data over design, Bowman claimed a company so filled with engineers turns to them to solve problems, removing subjectivity and making ‘yes or no’ decisions based entirely on data. “And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralysing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.”

“Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better,” he said. “I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case.”

He added: “I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.”

However, he did also have praise for the firm, in particular how it treats its workers, saying he’d miss his talented co-workers, in addition to the free food, massages and, of course, the “early chances to play with cool toys.”

“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to work at Google,” he said. “But I won’t miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data.”

A Google spokesperson said: "We wish Doug Bowman all the best."

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