Good User Experience

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Look up to see what books the different floor hold. Vancouver Library. Source

2010 Erica Velasco Photographers

2010 Erica Velasco Photographers

Dancing shoes for when you’re tired of your dress shoes. Source

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Glasgow architecture school shows you where the bathroom is with descriptive icons.

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This armchair knows what you really need. Source

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Yes to not hollering over people’s heads at the restaurant. Source.

Mousarris

We’ve all used chairs and tables at home and at the office, and most are first and foremost made to to be functional. Furniture probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think about art and design, but it’s a huge area that allows for a lot of playfulness and creativity.

When chairs go beyond functional into the realm of sculpture and art that it turns from an object into a question.

Furniture by Stelios Mousarris

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The chair is trying to break free of gravity that’s pulling it to the ground.

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Persian rug becomes a chair

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Inception! …coffee table!

When being rude is better than being nice.

These screens all show their home screens with device location turned off.

Polite: Map My Run, Storm

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Rude: Authentic Weather, Carrot Weather

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You might be frustrated with yourself or the app when this happens, but at least the experience isn’t boring.

Just One Stroke

Back in July, I watched as a family walked by a canvas in the local park with the sign “Just one stroke” and stop. They hesitated for a moment and then walked over to the canvas. Everyone made one stroke and then left. It seems really simple – a painting where everyone gets one stroke. But the end result, an accumulation of colorful squiggles, is always a collaborative art event that spawns from curiosity and (sometimes unknown) creativity.

Inspired by the Just One Stroke project started by my friend Rob, I decided to set a canvas up in my office and see what would happen.

There’s always the glance. Oh hey! What’s that? And then the pause. Oh I see. And then the courage to walk up to the canvas. Hm…what stroke should I make? Some people don’t think about it. Others really struggle with the idea of leaving a mark. You only get one. Ok, I’m going to put it there. Next to that guy’s stroke. And then walking back just a little to see where the stroke fit within the whole painting. Cool, back to work.

There were people who completely ignored it, other people who only took to it after a coworker nudged them and some who were incredibly enthusiastic about participating once they realized what it was. The best interaction came from one engineer who told me: “This is cool. I’ve never even mixed paint before. Can you tell me how to much yellow and blue I should use to make green?”

Yep, I can.

Ode to “Old Devices”

“What is that?” The guy next to me on the plane exclaimed, staring at my iPod.

Yes, I still use my iPod classic when traveling, because it carries thousands of songs that I can listen to without having to drain battery or data from the more important devices. It essentially has one function, but it works really, really well. I had to explain all of this to my seat neighbor when he shook his head, vehemently disagreeing with me from the look on his face. The fact that I even carried an older device was clearly a crime to him.

Nevertheless, it occurred to me that I’ve had this reaction before when I see people carrying around flip phones. Don’t you want apps on your phone? At least for Maps or Weather?  The answer I often get it is “I can get around fine without it.”

The truth is, having a phone with limited functionality is still pretty functional. It allows you to constant people without aimlessly distracting you wherever you go. This has been discussed at length in other blogs and online magazines, but it really hit me in the face this past weekend.

I’m currently in Zurich, Switzerland on a business trip. On the way to the hotel, I found myself needing to check the reservation info. 5 minutes later, I was in another app browsing the news. The taxi stopped momentarily at a red stop during the trip, causing me to look up. Outside my window were charming bridges and canals. Pedestrians waited as the tram rolled by. The Swiss flag flew quietly in a number of stores. The city was in front of me.

I’m in Zurich, I thought to myself. Why am I looking at my phone instead of out my window?

Our mobile devices can do a lot for us, and for the most part, they help make information and tools more accessible. But they also cause us to seek out information when we don’t need to. When we have a 200 apps, we tend to spend time looking at the content inside them rather than outside in reality. It’s much too easy to keep scrolling, swiping and tapping.

In an age when we’re constantly connected through the web, having a single-function device sounds …like a relaxing time.

Month One

Dinosaur

It was 7:30am. You could see the sun rays beaming through the palm trees and fun-colored lawn chairs. I was early, but there was already a line of about 30 people waiting to go inside Building 46. I walked over and chit chatted with a few of them. Around me were engineers, lawyers, teachers and a recruiter.

“How does a recruiter get hired?” Someone asked me out of earshot. I shrugged.

This was the start to a week-long orientation of a new job that comes with amenities that rival universities’ — a soccer field, tennis courts, free access to certain museums, massages, food all around and, most importantly, incredibly smart people.

My initial thoughts of being on campus were something akin to “This is a utopia. Everyone rides rainbow-colored bikes, there’s infinite free coffee and the weather is perfect every single day. This can’t be real.”

Then, it began — the funneling of information into my brain. Everyone spoke in acronyms and used words I didn’t know. The first two weeks were as much about gauging my whereabouts and expectations for work as they were about expanding my vocabulary. I tried to remember it all — the internal slang, people’s names, the different ongoing projects, the ways to install or receive x, y and z. I felt like I was being hurled through some version of the Large Hadron Collider.

It dawned on me that this experience would never truly end. Every day, there was more to learn and more things that I would be curious about. But it also became more manageable. I began to figure out where I was supposed to go and who I could talk to about various subjects. The panicked feeling of not knowing what was going on around me subsided and has been replaced with a steady hum of tasks and questions.

It’s been over a month now, since I’ve joined Google.

I’m working with a fantastic team of people who are thoughtful, friendly and open. They are also fiercely intelligent and push me to think with more focus about my work.

Unlike the small startups I had been a part of in the past, Google is teeming with people who I’ve never met before and some of whom I will never have the opportunity to meet. But it’s clear that people here want to create impact through their work.

It is ultimately about the work. The amenities are all you hear about when you’re looking in from the outside, but at the end of the day, the actual work I’m doing is most interesting to me. It’s my favorite part of being here and I can’t wait to see where it’ll go.