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Doug Bowman’s departure from Google for Twitter sparked a lot of heated discussion this week. In a brutally honest post, Doug cites Google’s restrictive data-driven engineering culture for stifling design innovation.
Most of the follow-on conversation has been partisan — some defending Doug’s position, others saying that Google has it right, regardless of how designers feel. My take is that both stories are incomplete.
The underlying problem is that design is a holistic discipline while data-analysis, applied dogmatically, is a reductive discipline. When the two coincide, serious friction can ensue. But far from vowing to never interact, these two disciplines need each other tremendously. The designer brings perspective that helps to organize experiential systems at all scales, while quantitative metrics are key for validating decisions. The problems arise when analysis is treated as the primary driver for invention — that’s like setting a measuring tape on a drafting table and expecting it to design spectacular architecture — rest assured, the genius is not in the tape. To best illustrate this point, I’m going to put on two hats…