Over the course of this month, Made by Google has announced and released its 2018 lineup, including the Pixel 3 and the Google Home Hub. In an interview with The Verge, design lead Ivy Ross and Rishi Chandra of Home and Nest touched on a number of points behind Made by Google and specific products.

Before becoming VP of hardware design, Ivy Ross worked on Google Glass. She currently leads industrial design, colors, materials, and finishing for all products, and describes Google’s design language as:

  • Human — Being easy to use and accessible
  • Optimistic — Featuring a sense of fun, citing Google Doodles in Search
  • Bold — In a nod to moonshots like self-driving cars.

Ross touched on the formation of the group several years ago, with designers that had hardware user experience or industrial design in their title joining her team. In terms of the development process, the hardware design team works with product managers that are responsible for defining the functionality. Ross and co. then “work together to bring that to life through the physical product.”

Asked about the Pixel 3 XL notch, Ross says that it was “something we knew from the beginning and worked through” and then took the attitude of “let’s solve it as best we can.”

The fact that there is a notch was to accommodate the things we wanted to fit in there i.e. the front-facing cameras. And then really thought about is there enough room on either side of that notch that can provide useful screen space to deliver some software. Otherwise, we wouldn’t do the notch. We would just have a bigger forehead. It became clear that actually there was enough useful space on either side of the notch.

The Verge also asked a very interesting question on cases and the tendency for people to cover up the actual design of the phone. Ross revealed that Google tested doing a one color phone and “a whole lot more cases.” However, she noted that people still do have an “emotional moment” when choosing the color — going “to great lengths to get the color they want” — even if they know it will be under a case.

Meanwhile, Rishi Chanda discussed how the team is exploring different materials, besides fabric, for future Home products.

Not everything has to be fabric. Fabric is a very popular type of material. There’s so many different types of materials that exist in the home today.

We’re doing a lot of explorations about what are other types of materials that actually just make sense and feel really nature in everything we do.

Chanda also discussed why the Google Home Hub runs on the Cast platform while all other Smart Displays use Android Things. The answer boils down to how OEMs are familiar with Android when creating new products, while for Google it is “easier to build on the Cast platform.” The company has heavily invested in tuning and optimizing Cast to its hardware. However, in practice there is no difference as shown by multi-room audio coming to existing LG and JBL Smart Displays last week.

Asked about the lack of Netflix on the Home Hub or any other Smart Display, Rishi notes that Google is in discussion with the video service.

Netflix is taking a reasonable approach in this sense. They want to understand how these devices are going to be used, where they’re going to be used before they’re going to commit themselves to a new type of device type. They are being conservative on this.

The full interview podcast is well worth a listen at The Verge.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com