I don’t agree with the view that Google is purely engineering-led at its core, as well as I don’t…
Ariadna Gotanegra

Your thoughts are very well-taken, Ariadna. The Don Norman/Bruce Tognazzini article is excellent and thought-provoking; I just tweeted it out on your recommendation.

Post-Jobs Apple could indeed lose its way on design thinking, and there are signs that worry me. At the same time, I believe designing to user experience is still deep in Apple’s DNA, and they are still trying to solve real user problems. I believe the new app-centric Apple TV is an example of this. On the other hand, are there indications that visual aesthetics are trumping usability in some of Apple’s design decisions? Yes. Visual design is part of design, but in my view is the most superficial and therefore should be the last consideration, not the first. It is encouraging, as Norman and Tognazzini point out, that iOS 9 makes some adjustments in recognition of usability problems introduced with iOS 7 & 8. Did they go far enough toward fixing the problems? Probably not.

There is a particular point that I think Norman and Tognazzini take too far. That is in regard to experimenting with new touch-based gestures. The compactness of mobile devices requires experimentation with input methods, and it is not out of bounds, in my view, to have some learning curve with gestures that could become powerful new metaphors. I think 3D Touch is an example of that. This is not to deny that Apple may have gone too far and is burying features by over-reliance on special gestures. But there needs to be some room for introducing new input methods and then adjusting to how users adopt them (or fail to adopt them).

Then there is Google. I agree they have made strides on visual and interaction design. Where I think they are in grave danger is in trusting their engineering instincts at the strategic level of deciding what products to pursue creating in the first place. The introduction of Alphabet increases that concern. Do they see that their only great success as a company is Google search? Now they want to relegate that to letter g in the alphabet? I think the main point of my article stands—that Google does not understand what made them successful, and they do not undrestand design thinking adequately to reliably create new successes. I would love to see specific examples to the contrary. If both Google and Apple truly embrace or continue to embrace design thinking, these powerhouses of product creation will be improving our lives for many years to come. But if they don’t, they won’t. True?