Company Genetics — The Value of Balance

Our little firm was founded with a healthy dose of engineering and design DNA. And it’s not as simple as pairing up an engineer and a designer. Walter loves creating beautiful usable things, and Jenny loves the power of software. We have shared values around a balance between tech and design, and we try to have a balance in everything we do.

The trouble is, often, really talented people can be very narrow in their perspective. It’s this focus that gives them advanced skills, but it also means that they can be blind in other areas. Young children who are gifted are often off the charts in one area (math, art, reading, etc.) and then below average in others. Finding talented people with perspective and balance is the true challenge. Not just in design and tech, but in terms of business and company environment, compensation vs. risk, and even making decisions from the brain vs. making them from the gut. This list could go on forever and there’s never a perfect “right” answer.

This quote from Doug Bowman, now formerly a senior designer at Google, does a great job of showing how a company can be really good at one thing, and let other key skills atrophy.

“When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing 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. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.”

Brave, and well said.

One Response to Company Genetics — The Value of Balance

  1. Craig says:

    Silly, the answer is always 5 pixels wide ;). I really like 10 better tho, nicer framing effect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>