In reporting this month’s essay about the convergence of design and business that’s being ushered in by Silicon Valley, a handful of companies kept cropping up: Apple, obviously, but also some less obvious ones such as Google and Twitter. Each of these companies has, in some way or another, caught the design bug. Google has begun to realize that it can’t continue as a simply scattershot grouping of products and services. They’ve realized that they need to think in terms of product ecosystems and user delight. We’re only seeing hints of this new ideal, via projects such as Google+, but the intent is there. Twitter, meanwhile, is very much a company that sees itself in Apple’s mold: That is, design-driven, savvy about every last detail, and hyper user-focused.
So it’s no surprise that each of these companies faces a specific design challenge, as they seek out more and more sustainable growth:
Success can be a bitch. Design made Apple a behemoth, but its products are showing signs of strain: OSX is getting bloated; iOS feels like a jail cell; iTunes needs to be cleaned up. Worse, rivals are raiding Apple’s talent and customers expect a Jesus product biannually. Can the company find new product paths for innovation? And will its product design chops translate to managing a sprawling ecosystem?
As the search giant battles Facebook and Apple, it’s hiring designers at a rapid clip. Results have been mixed. Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is a winner, but the Q media-streaming device was DOA. Can it shift its data-driven mindset to a design-oriented one? Will design at Google always feel like a kid playing dress up?
What began as a simple experiment in hyperfast information sharing is now info overload to the 10th power. Twitter is already both news feed and watercooler for many folks, but to keep growing, its design must evolve from an exhausting experience to one of smarter filtering and organization. In short, Twitter needs more user experience wizards.
A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.