Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm having a blue moment...

I've just gotten back from much life travels and have been catching up on blogs and twitters. Twittering, that just doesn't sound right does it. Better yet, can I tweet you :-) I remember the first time I said I needed to Google some software, I thought my husband would laugh his, well you know. Google is now part of everyone's lexicon.

 Yet I have found a flaw in Google. Mind you I would love to own a piece of that company. They are geniuses in current technology. An area I am not in the least savvy on, but admire their approach to artificial intelligence. Simplifying a complicated process and making it mass market friendly. I even like saying the word, "google". You know to go ogle. Look at something with envy. How many companies envy this behemoth of a search engine.

Yet there is that flaw, and I am sure it will be addressed as they are smart ones there. Their top designer, Doug Bowman, just resigned to head off for other pastures leaving a really frank report on why. Without blaming, he was  respectful of Google's stance. He understood their constraints were not ones he could work within. Google's left brain is not balanced with it's right.

It was all summed up in a blue moment, 41  shades of blue.  There was an instance when  a designer chose a shade of blue, but  conflict when a product manager chose a different shade. The Vice President of Search Product and User Experience decided to settle things by choosing a color in the middle then getting data on 41 shades of blue and find which color people hit on the most. 

While every good designer knows that you have to understand the market you are trying to reach. Which is their job to know what appeals to a prospective client. Researching 41 shades of blue is overkill. There are too many variables in the test. In the Carolinas, you test people from Duke and they will hate that sky blue of UNC, but love that dark navy of their alma mater. Psychology affects choices.

A good designer also knows sometimes their job is to create the atmosphere where people are compelled to use their product just by the ambiance of the whole package. I think of Starbucks.
No way in college would I have thought to pay four dollars for a coffee. Yet, I migrate to Starbucks  on a regular basis. Why, because I was sucked in with the rest of you. I don't even like coffee. I like the atmosphere of people talking and working. The offerings that are custom made. The opportunity to meet a business associate in a non-work setting is appealing, breaking up the drearydom of offices or worksites. I don't think Starbucks did a market test on 41 colors of brown. They looked at the whole package, the integrated design and how the whole picture came together. That would be the ultimate in micromanaging.

Having said that, I am a colormaniac. I notice the slightest incremental difference and it is one of the areas I am called in to consult on quite a bit. My ability with color is a natural affinity as a singer would have to perfect pitch.  There are issues with the methodology Google is using to choose colors. Perfect blue cannot be found simply by presenting a color swatch.

Because color is affected by light, unless you take the two into consideration together, well it will skew your results. In your own home watch the color shift of your walls as lighting changes during the hours of a day. If it is a computer, lighting the screen will be crucial in the effect. Try going to your local Best Buy and look at the same picture on several different manufacturer screens. The colors are all slightly different. Televisions are the same as well. So, testing 41 different colors of blue is a waste of time/dollars. Also, placing a blue next to different colors will trick the eye into making that color view in a different shade. Look at blue next to white, red, green, yellow and orange. (A great technical reference on this is Color Index) Pairings make a huge difference.  Add to that the psychology. Color design involves the whole package.

So, I will forgive Google, for its faux pas in overuse of their left brained mentality. I certainly couldn't have written the program for a search engine and I'm sure they can find fault with my use of internet technology. The only difference being I've never tried to tell a techie how to do their business. 

Okay, let me have my smug moment.


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