The 3 Big Design Dilemmas Facing Apple, Twitter, And Google

Think it’s all puppies and flowers for the would-be kings of Silicon Valley? Think again.

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:

Design Dilemma #1

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?

Design Dilemma #2

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?

Design Dilemma #3

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.

Image: Everett Collection/Shutterstock

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  • Simon Lee

    Excellent article, though more depth of ideas/examples would have presented idea more strongly. 

  • Zaptodus

    That's not a teardown of the article in any way, though. I agree with Alejandrogaray that more depth would be interesting. The "Jesus" product point especially. You were spot-on with that one.

  • Zaptodus

    Not gonna lie, I came into this expecting more meat to this. Maybe you could revisit it and answer the questions. Look at the history of the companies in the areas the questions raised.

  • jmco

    Right on about Twitter. I really want it to be smarter. I get hundreds of tweets a day. I use Lists (which kind of sucks in how it works) to sort of organize but, there are some tweets that I would like to rise above the constant drone. We need more control.

    The problem with Google, and indeed with many companies, is that many design decisions are made by committee and consumer feedback. This is the worst way to actually make good design decisions (as Apple has proved). 
    If you are an innovative company, you need a Design Director who leads and has final decisions on all design decisions. That same director should become a VP of Design as the company grows. You will also have directors under that VP like an Art Director, etc. but they all send work through the VP who alone makes major decisions as they see fit. The VP Design sets the tone of design at the company and his or her leadership alone (with close talks with the CEO/President) make the big decisions and overseas many of the less than big design efforts.

  • alejandrogaray

    I wish this article would have more depth. It could've been supporter with more examples. The topic is interesting.