I read an article recently on Wired’s blogsite about Douglas Bowman, Google’s design visual lead leaving the giant because “an obsessive, engineer-heavy, data driven-culture made it impossible for him to work there anymore.” Wow, I’ve been there too. I have worked for companies that would hold meetings to plan for follow up meetings.
So how does a design professional balance their experience, talents, and instinct, with the cold, stark reality of functionality? Sometimes we hold our ground and eventually the powers that be go along with our reasoning. Sometimes we bite the bullet, keep our mouths shut, and go along for the ride. Bowman mentions, “that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.”
On one hand, data is the law. Just the facts ma’am. It defines who, what, and where. From a pure business standpoint, it’s easy to surmise that data should determine design. The arguable point of this is that presentation has a large part in the effectiveness and usefulness of data. Design professionals use actual logic to display content and data. Elements are positioned with actual reasoning and order for specified colors and imagery.
As a designer, I’d say that I lean towards form. The planned presentation of data determines how effectively it communicates and how accurately it is interpreted. As a businessman, I’d say that function sits on equal ground. Data drives business. For that matter, data drives just about everything. Form is simply art without function. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
I don’t blame Mr. Bowman for leaving Google out of creative frustration. I’ve done it myself. I don’t blame Google for being who they are either. They’re #1 for good reason.
Ultimately, balance is the solution to form and function. How’s that for sitting on the fence?