Unified Design: Inside Google’s Kennedy Project

In a recent article from The Verge, we are provided an inside look at a recent and incredibly successful project from Google called “Project Kennedy.” In 2011, Larry Page took full control of Google as CEO. One of Larry’s first priorities was to redesign all of Google’s major applications. At the time, Google had several powerful applications, but not a strong design concept. Larry Page tasked his design team to not only come up with a new interface quickly, but also build something that would power Google into the future. There are many ways this case study can help to improve your next web design initiative.


Collaborative Effort

The Google design team faced a massive project. They were tasked to create a completely new framework for all of their major applications – such as Gmail, Maps, and YouTube – while meeting a deadline of only a few months. In order to meet this tight deadline, the group of designers was in constant collaboration on the various iOS app projects. There were frequent meetings with the goal to “balance the experience across all Google products with the need to move fast and deliver great solutions for users.” During these meetings, designers would provide each other feedback of individual concepts and ideas and even share solutions. The success of Google's collaborative efforts illustrate how critical it is that all stakeholders of a design project work closely together and that when that happens, truly amazing work can be achieved.


Consistent Look & Feel

The most incredible aspect of the Kennedy Project is the design consistency of all of Google’s new iOS applications. Unlike previous iterations, these applications seem to meld together into one family. Mail, Search, Google+, and YouTube all possess subtle elements that tie them together and also improve functionality for the user. The design team at Google found an important quality of their brand that made it strong – simplicity –and amplified it in the new apps. As a result, users now have a variety of applications that keep it clean and simple – only presenting the option you need rather than cluttering the screen with buttons and fields. When working either as a design team or with one, you should be guided by focus and work toward this level of consistency when building your own websites or mobile applications.


Functionality Across Multiple Platforms

The article stresses Google’s focus on the iOS market. In the past, Google has had more success with the Android market. The team wanted to build iOS applications that worked seamlessly with the platform. However, the designers had to consider this redesign across all possible platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Android. Jason Cornwell, Google’s Gmail lead designer, said it best. The goal of this project was to take “elements that make those platforms what they are and marrying them with the overall conceptual direction Gmail is pushing.” Designers should realize the differences between platforms and find ways to tie them together through design. Google’s success across multiple platforms can be attributed to multiple teams coming together and sharing their platform expertise. An excellent new user interface is great, but functionality across devices is key.


The Importance of a Strong Brand

While Google has drastically changed their look and feel over the past few months, a lot of their success should be attributed to the brand they established from the beginning. Google has always sported an interface that is clean, yet powerful. The Google design team has found a way to keep this primary brand intact while adding several enhancements that strengthen the identity even more. This case study reveals the importance of the initial brand, including the color palette, logo and typography to a design initiative.

This article from The Verge was a great resource for me as a designer. I would encourage everyone working as a designer or with a design team to give it a read and watch the included video. This is a great example of a strong design team coming together to build something special. If you have any questions for our web team or would like to see what our team can do for your website or mobile applications, contact us today.