Sprinting Towards Innovation

Bringing developers and designers together to unlock Android’s potential

With 88% market share, it is more critical than ever for companies to offer a great experience to their Android users. While the Android platform is highly regarded by the developer community, designer’s have a tendency to carry iPhones and are less familiar with designing for Android. The question that my team set about answering was how do we get designers inspired about what’s possible on Android? Press releases are boring. Viral videos are hit and miss. Medium posts (ahem) have limited reach. What really moves people are experiences: personal, vibrant, memorable experiences. Once we agreed on that, the solution was rather obvious. We needed to run a Design Sprint.

We wanted to bring together people who were already pushing the limits of app design and changing the app landscape, and specifically wanted to leverage the magic that happens when you make space for collaboration between design and development. So we invited over 35 top designers and developers to San Francisco for a three day Design Sprint with the a broad and exciting Sprint Challenge: create innovative, experimental Android apps that push the boundaries of the platform and meet real needs of real people.

The Design Sprint convened in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday, February 21st. Attendees came from around the world, places like Australia, Russia, Los Angeles, and New York City, among other far-flung locales. Companies like Adobe, Uber and Tinder were represented as well as top app design agencies like Y Media Labs, Shift Jelly, and Willowtree.

One of the priorities was to make sure that the participants were comfortable with the UI of Android so prior to the Sprint, everyone got a Pixel phone to use for three weeks so they could familiarize themselves with the Android platform. Participants also were able to select which topic they wanted to explore; attendees were then grouped into teams of 4–5 people based on their preferences. We’d brainstormed seven different topic areas that we believed would be relevant to users daily lives and also offered and opportunity for disruptive products. The categories we selected were Self-Activating, Connecting, Environmentally Sustaining, Entertaining, Connected Living, and Productive.

As Sprint Master, I utilized our Moonshot Sprint framework to provide a structure for these designer/developer teams to learn, explore, and create. We brought in inspirational speakers to talk about the origin of Material Design, Material Motion, the unique affordances of the Android platform, and other frontier pushing examples from the Android experiments team and Larva labs. Then each team brainstormed, generating a broad range of ideas in sketch form and finally narrowed down to one innovative idea per team, which they designed and built in roughly one day.

There was palpable excitement from the participants as they worked on purely creative pursuits, unconstrained by the bottomline concerns of their day jobs. It was also liberating to see people from so many different work cultures, not to mention national cultures, collaborating with such singular purpose.

The Sprint culminated with fun demos and presentations by the teams to the larger Google design community. The final products ranged from the whimsical to the profound, including a nightlife recommendation engine to an anonymous social network for sexual trauma survivors to an AI bot for calculating the carbon footprint of daily decisions. As Jason Scott, designer at Willowtree, said, “The amount of talent in the room really made the experience unique. I’m excited to share the process with my team.”

Enabling designers and developers to work together within the framework of a Design Sprint allowed each team to push the envelope on what’s possible on Android. “I really didn’t know anything about Android before i started using the Pixel” said Serge Vasil, Senior Product Designer at Redfin. “The phone is full of cool features and material design gives you everything you need to design the best app in the world. This experience will definitely affect the way I approach work back at Redfin.”

We hope the examples created in this sprint, and the resources we compiled for it will be an inspiration to other designers to join forces with a developer and explore how to make their app the best it can be on Android. Based on the awesome work our guests produced, the Dimension Sprint demonstrated we’ve only begun scratching the surface of what can be done on Android.

You can also watch the video!

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