Design Is [Elemental] – From Building Blocks to Great Experiences

[MUSIC PLAYING] SARAH WILSON: Hi, everyone. My name’s Sarah Wilson. I’m a designer here, at Google. And one of the creators
of the series, Design is. Thanks, everyone,
for coming tonight. We have an exciting talk. The topic is a
design is elemental. And we’ll be covering off on
the foundational systems that create those end
user experiences that are not only usable,
but are also delightful– that elusive word. So our speaker tonight
is Elizabeth Churchill. She is an user experience
director here, at Google. She creates tools,
and improves the tools that designers
and developers use every day grounded through,
really, research, insights, and science. She spent her career
at the intersection of academia and industry. So she spent time building
teams with organizations like eBay, Yahoo, Fuji. And her work focuses both
on the short-term needs of those organizations, but the
long-term impacts of the system she creates, as well. She’s also received over
50 patents, written seven academic books, and
100 publications. She’s received her PhD
in cognitive science from the University
of Cambridge, and both her bachelor’s and
master’s from the University of Sussex. She’s also received an
honorary doctor of science from the University of Sussex,
for her continued contributions to the sciences underlying
the creative technologies. So without further ado– welcome, Elizabeth. [APPLAUSE] ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: Thank
you so much, everyone, for coming out tonight. I see some familiar
faces and some new ones. So thanks, very
much, for being here. And although I’m speaking,
I want to give a shout out to a lot of people. Rich Fulchur, Michael Gilbert– from my team. A lot of the work I’m going
to be talking about today was actually conducted
or led by him. And then there’s MJ Broadbent,
JuJu, Dave Chu, Sameer Bansal. And there’s a bunch of
folks in the audience right now from my team and
teams that I work with, who I also want to thank. So this is me talking, but it’s
actually– it takes a village. It takes a village to do work. So design is elemental. But also, I want to
talk about elements. But I want to talk
really about delight. So underlying everything I say
today is the idea of delight. And not just creating
delight for users, but also having
delightful experiences in the production of creating
those delightful end user experiences. I also want to
think about delight as the disciplinary
interest that we have– the things that we
get really excited about. And so you’re going to see
my particular excitement and the way I like to think
about design and design systems and so forth. But I’m going to
give you a little bit of an overview of some
of the work of the team. And some of the
things I’m really excited about that we’re doing. And this is definitely
a conversation. So I’m hoping that
a lot of folks will stay around later and
talk to each other, talk to me, and give me your reflections. Because this is meant to
be a personal reflection and a little bit whimsical. So I invite you to
be whimsical with me. So what does elemental mean? Well, it means primary or basic. And the features from
which other structures are compounded. And I’ll be talking
quite a lot about that. But the powers of nature
is also elemental. Think about winds and rains. And think about
beautiful atmospheres that you find yourself in. So I want us to think about
the atmospheres of production as elemental to the contexts in
which we work, the context we create for others to
find delight and have the elemental feeling, not
just getting stuff done. Finally, I always like this
idea of the supernatural or the force. Maybe not so much
the occult. But this idea that when we’re
designing things, we create things
that feel magical. That comes as if from nowhere
to help us do things every day. And I do want to think about
all of those different ways of thinking about elemental. So from small pieces
to moving experiences and magical experiences. And, of course, that’s
quite hard to create. I’m talking about
big atmospheres. But what we’re really talking
about today is these devices. And I’m sure many of you are
looking at them right now. You’ve got your devices. Devices of all sizes,
of all capacities for doing different
kinds of things that fit into your everyday life. And are part of your function,
part of your identity. And so while I’m thinking
about these big experiences– really, what we’re talking
about is the importance of these devices in our lives. And how much time they take up. And how much they help us. And how much they help
us connect with others. And whether they do or
do not provide delight. Are these things atoms of
enjoyment and productivity for you or not? So when I’m talking
about design, I’m very specifically talking
about these kinds of devices. Because that’s where
the work is focused. But I think some of the
methods and approaches might apply to other
kinds of experiences. So I did want to bring
in this idea of– this is Google’s
product excellence. I’m sure you’ve seen this. So some kinds of
atomic elements are things like these– focused
utility, simple design, crafted execution. And you can see some
great words there that are associated with
these different principles– if you like. Elements of great
experiences, of excellent experiences– if you like. And I think these
words like beautiful, respectful are very
important to us. But often, when you
talk to people who are actually building tools
and building experiences– that question is, wait a minute. How do I build that? What do you mean when
you say beautiful? That’s no kind of guidance. What do I do? I’ve done some user testing
where others haven’t, I don’t think it’s going to work. Might not be working for them. So we’ve done quite a lot
of interviews with designers and developers to
try and understand how they feel about these
grand important principles. And how those are taken
into the atomic elements that will result in
those principles. And everyone is very committed,
but sometimes, the path there can seem a little obscured. So how do brilliant
designers and developers go from this beautiful
principle– for example– of beauty or
whatever and actually start to build
those experiences? Well, they have a lot of
resources available to them. Here are some of the resources. So there’s a lot of
knowledge to share. So people go to look at
different perspectives from other people. What have you done
when you created something that’s beautiful? UI patterns have been
around for a very long time, at least since the ’60s– actually, possibly before. And certainly, in disciplines
like architecture, they’ve been around even longer. They’ve been around for a very
long time– study of patterns that we follow. Case studies are very much
part of people’s go-to place. Then there are some principles
that are go-to principles and guidelines. And some people use heuristics. They will say I’ve
seen this before, and I’m guessing this is the
right kind of thing to do. And people also, when they’re
designing and developing, will resort to
looking at standards. Standards, like, guidelines
for accessibility. Because those have
been bubbled up from lots and lots of
people’s experiences. And they’re codified knowledge
that has been compiled. So you’re standing on
the shoulders of giants– if you like– by reemplementing,
and then bringing your own perspective. And a few years ago, we started
to hear about this thing called design systems. And I’m guessing, probably 2014,
2013– something like that– but what’s different
about design systems are that they bring together
design, and principles, and engineered components,
and, of course, research that underlies– what are those collections that
have been brought together? And I’m going to show
you some examples. And how can you use
those collections in order to close that gap
between building something that’s basically
embodying beauty? And sitting and trying
to with the blank page– how do you get there? So my research world is
in this kind of space, of design systems. And the team that I work with
and manage, we do everything from qualitative
research, interviewing designers and
developers, to surveys, to doing desk research–
reviewing a lot of the principles that exist. And then selecting
how we can test those principles to see if
they actually land for people. So I’m going to give you
some examples of that work. But before I do that, I want
to give you more context. So here at Google, we
have material design. Many of the people
in the audience– I think– are very familiar
with material design. And material design–
the motto, the vision is beautiful design,
Google scale. Came about in about 2014. And if you go to, you will see a lot of
guidelines and principles. As well as, you’ll
be linked to places to get code and so forth. And the story of
material design is that Google wanted to
create coherent experiences across multiple
different products and create consistency. But also, create some beauty
and a great user experience. And so some of the elements
that the brilliant designers– I was not around at this time– explored– and I’m going to show
you some images and so forth from that time– they took this
notion of elemental. What are the building
blocks, the pieces, the elements that you. as
designers, need to have? And then, how do
they fit together to create these delightful
experiences built from these atoms? These are form, shape,
line, texture, colour– spelt my way–
space, and movement. And I’m going to show
you some examples of that from material design. And the idea was to
provide great guidelines. Not just about these
elements, but also how they fit together
in the experiences that people are going to have. So here we are. This is actually,
a pretty old slide, but you can see that
material design is evolving and has always been evolving. And there you can see, there
are components that you can get and so forth. But here, you see some
of those elements. You see everything from
fonts you see and typography. You see different kinds
of button and so forth. And all of these elements exist. And they’re out there,
and they are evolving, and they’re constantly being
reviewed and refreshed. Both to reflect
the color schemes, but also to reflect what new
technologies are coming around. So this is always evolving. These design patterns, and
guidelines, and elements are always in conversation
with what else is going on in the world. And people often
say, why material? And material was
definitely a metaphor that the brilliant designers
who started material were exploring. And they did a lot of work to
explore things like shadow– shadow which allows you to
signal salience or relevance. To signal the order of things. To signal depth. And to signal
importance– as I say. They also explored
things like shape that moves– that
moves like a material. What happens when
you move something? Where does the shadow go? And all of this is
sort of delightful. I think you’ll agree that
some of these images, sort of, evoke this feeling
of that’s quite delightful. These were explorations at the
very beginning of material. And they actually, also
built physical objects. And you can see these displayed. So these physical objects
were about playing with this idea of
shadow and light coming from
different directions. So that when you look
at a flat screen, you start to see these
beautiful shadows. And your eye is drawn
in to certain places. So this is from 2014– I think you might recognize
this physical thing that was being explored and played with. And looked at to
see what it evoked, in terms of how people
felt about this. And I think you’ve
seen this before– probably. So this idea of experimentation,
of building these elements– these design elements
through experimentation– has always been built in to the
development of material design. Here are some more images
that were created at the time, looking at how do
these layers play out? And here, you can see translated
into another rendition– always doing these explorations. And here, you can see
where the elements start to get composed into
potential patterns for beautiful experiences and
also, critically important experiences that draw the
eye to what is salient. That invite interaction
of a very particular kind. So the experimentation was
always important for that. So here, you’ve got another
example of the layers. What are the layers that matter? Where does action
and interaction come? Where does information that
is going to be acted upon lie? How does it sit in
relationship to each other? And although these are some
of the explorations that were done several years
ago, this principle of exploring, of
testing, of trying remains part of the everyday
practice of the development. Of everything you see on the
material design or site. So here we have also motion. So when I gave you those
basic elements of design, motion was part of that. And there are a lot
of explorations on, what’s the right motion to evoke
a particular kind of emotion? So if you think about
something that’s really jittery and sharp– how does that make
you feel as a human? If you have
something like, boo– what does that do to your
emotional psychological state? What is the perception of that
in terms of how you react? And one of the
things that Google has been investing
in a lot recently is this idea of
digital well-being. And digital well-being can
come about not just from things that we’ve talked about
around things like addiction to particular kinds
of experiences. But I would argue that
digital well-being can also be rendered in those momentary
experiences that you have. If something is
jarring and jittery. If a sound, an alarm
went off right now, which was intended to alarm us
to leave the building– what you’re invoking in the body is
very much this fight or flight response. Move now. And so everything
we design is really designed with this
idea of how does it bring delight or non-delight? Invoke action in the body? And so I think these motions
are really interesting. And I’ve been talking
to a number of people about what is the
personality of motion? What is playful? What is serious? What is urgent? And of course, when
we’re doing this, you have to think about
how it renders across all of these different devices. So it may look very different
a sudden, urgent something flashing at you on
your small device might be very different from
a tablet or your giant TV. Because it will affect your
visual system differently, and you’ll have a different
body reaction to it. So there’s some really
interesting things to play with in this space. And this is where I want to
come to this idea of frameworks for thinking. Because something like a
material design system, or any design system, or
any set of guidelines– they can be used
in multiple ways. You can look at them and say,
these are rules to follow. You can look at
them, and you can say these are templates that
I’m going to work within. You can also look at these
systems as provocations to question, and reflect, and
augment, and contribute to. And that’s what brings me
back to this idea of these may well be the elements. But how do these
elements render? And how do they fit together? And what do they evoke? And what mood do they cast? So there’s always a critical
questioning around that. So if you’re in a
hurry and you’ve got to get something done– boom, boom, boom,
take the guidelines. If you’re in a more
creative space, the critical interrogation
is really important. They’re provocation
for your creativity. So that’s where I come
to the periodic table. So I’ve always been fascinated
by the periodic table– 1869. And there is my gratuitous
picture of Dimitri Mendeleev because I think he’s a genius. And so this is one
of the renditions of the periodic table, and
it’s the table of elements. And it’s just tabular
display of the elements. And they’re arranged by a
particular set of metrics and measures that are
important as fundamentals to inviting an investigation, to
inviting scientific activities. They’re not laid out as truth. They’re laid out
as a representation of what we know now. And so if the periodic table
is a provocation, as well as a visualization of what is
known at a particular moment– I think of the
elements of design as you go from
the periodic table to the sciences
underlying the discovery of atomic characteristics
on the periodic side to those underlying
psychoperceptual ones. I would also put in
there– emotional ones. So what are the elements
underlying the– and how do they come
together to work with the human
psychoperceptual system and the emotional system? So that’s what makes me excited. You know I was talking
about delight earlier? That’s my delight. So if we have designed
systems, which are really about structuring
and scaffolding work, which are about
a form of productivity and also creativity–
for me, I’m always curious
about how they fit with the human psychoperceptual
and emotional space. And I’m not the first
person to think about this– to think about the periodic
table, specifically. This is Brad Frost’s
atomic design, where, very much,
this work was pulled from this idea of
the periodic table. He was also fascinated by this
idea of the periodic table. And if you go online, you can
see a whole load of people have played with this, including
laying out designed system elements– like Josh Duck’s table
of atomic elements. There’s loads of them. And I think this illustrates
another point that I want to make, which is Mendeleev
created a particular, really brilliant moment of
bringing elements together in a format that allowed
others to be really critically engaged. And to go, oh, now
everything is laid out, but those holes are
really important. Because they’re actually spaces
where he didn’t quite know what fit in there. But he made predictions
of what could fit in there on the basis
of this representation. And so he correctly predicted
the existence and properties of, as yet,
undiscovered elements. And that is what I think is
so fascinating about Mendeleev and the periodic table. Because it wasn’t just a
codification of what is known. It was also, a map
and an invitation to investigate what
is not yet known. And I think that’s really why
I’m so excited about things, like, the material
design system. Because it can get
you so far and get you answering certain questions. But it also is a
deep provocation to what do we not know? What have we not asked yet? What elements are missing? What elements
combine in other ways that we haven’t investigated? And what new formats
for device are going to bring our
minds to going, poof– goodness me, we really
need to rethink this? And that’s why, I think, this
is such an exciting space. So here’s my view of
what design systems are. Sure, they are
structures and scaffolds. They are guidelines
for getting work done. But they’re also
generative frameworks for thinking and predicting
what we need to know. They involve the research,
and design, and engineering working tightly
together to invoke new creativity in each other. What is possible
with engineering? Where are the design
boundaries being pushed in really interesting
ways because of new device formats? What research methods
do we need to invent to really get at how
people are reacting, and what works for them? So here’s some of the research
that we’re thinking about. It’s like, what
exists is in material? What’s needed? What do we need to create? What do we need to create
for new device formats? Then working with
design, thinking about prototyping for that. And once we’ve prototype
something– what works? What things that we are
putting out there, potentially, are accessible to a very
broad audience that deal with different kinds
of– for example– visual impairment? What is absolutely delightful
for one person in one context, but not in another? And you’ll see a little
bit of that in a minute, I’ll give you an example. So for example,
from things that I use for my leisure and
discretionary use– what is delightful
in that instance, that if I’m at work and
trying to get something done with a lot of dense information,
the particular format doesn’t quite work for me? And then once you’ve engineered
and got things out there added to the materials system,
once you’ve actually started to put things out
that people are using– we do a lot of
research on, who cares? What’s the diffusion of this? Who’s taking this up? What’s the sentiment of this? Can we go and look at different
kinds of online social space and see how people are reacting? Can we have a look at
different interfaces that people have created
and do some really smart visual analytics, to
see how components are being composed that we
did not anticipate or expect? Are we expanding? Are we inspiring? Are other people
building off our system, creating new systems? That idea of inspiration
is really critical. And so now, I want to dig into
some very concrete examples of some research we’ve
done to, just give you concrete examples of
the kind of research that we’re doing at
one level– which is this very elemental level. And I want to say that, we
do a bunch of other research, as well. So I’m just going
to talk about– because of time limitations– some experimental
work on elements. Then I’ll try and
talk a little bit about context and combinations. And in this particular
example, the work is ongoing. Its work in process– in progress, I guess. So I can’t give you
the answer, but part of what I want to do
today is provoke you, to think about how you’d
approach the questions that we’re posing. Not just give you the answers. So although it wasn’t
a finished project, I still thought it was
worth sharing with you. And then, I mentioned
a little bit earlier– we do a lot of work on
the production process. So there’s a lot of
really lovely research, which isn’t about–
for example– something like the
periodic table. The research focuses
on the people who use the periodic table. So it’s how do tools
like the periodic table get taken up by people in
their everyday contexts? And there’s a lot
of work which does anthropological, ethnographic
studies of going and studying people in their work situations
to see how something, like, material design is used. Does material help
you in your every day? Does it help you collaborate
between different functions? Do you find that material
design is something or the elements
of material design is something that helps you
answer specific questions and then articulate
cross-functional partners? Are you finding that using
something like material design means that your work just goes
faster, and so you go home and you have more hours
sleep every night? These are really
important things that are around something,
like, a design system. So we do a lot of work on
that, but I won’t have time to talk about that tonight. But if you want to talk
about any of that work later, I’d be delighted to. So I’m going to go very granular
down into the elements now. This work was done by
Dave Chu, Michael Gilbert, and Sameer Bansal– who
I mentioned earlier. And this work– I talk about this work
quite a lot because it’s one of my favorites. So that is one of the
elements of design– it’s a line with a label. I imagine everybody
who’s done design work, does a lot of these
kinds of lines. I’m seeing some nods. So we were interested
in the end user, maybe the psychoperceptual experience
that users were having. And so the first
thing that was done was to come up with
these different elements of usability. Like, do you know
it’s a text field? Can you see it in a form? Has anybody ever gone to
a form and you’re, like, where am I supposed to
put the cursor and type? And can you locate
a specific one? So you’re looking for
something very specific. Do you understand
all of the parameters and all of the information
around that field– what you’re supposed to do with it? And can you do that
quickly and efficiently? So now what we have is a design
element that we have broken down into things that
matter to people, that are psychoperceptual. And here, we worked with
some brilliant designers to actually come up with what
would be the parameters you’d want to push. You’ve got the label position. You’ve got the size, the font,
what are the critical ones that sit within the system that
derive from a set of design principles, but that we
want to really understand how people perform? So this was created by Michael. And basically, it’s an
experiment generating machine. We took those parameters–
they took those parameters, the team– and then you could click
on the different buttons, and generate all of the
conditions that all satisfied different permutations–
if you like– within the space of
the elements that come together to make a line. So we’re going from, like,
small atoms into elements into compositions. So generating these,
the team came up with– I think– it was, like, 144
conditions or something. And then, people were asked– this was on Mechanical Turk– people were asked to do a whole
set of tasks, which were timed. And then there were qualitative
questions asked later. And you can see, this is not a
particularly attractive form. But I’m sure, we have
encountered forms like this– all of us. And people were asked
to do certain tasks. And we were collecting
all the data, as well as the hotspot click data–
where people clicked. And to see what
errors people made. And when all of the
analysis was done– and it was a giant analysis. I’m not going to show you
the diagram right here, but literally, all of this
data was about my span of hands here. And we did all of these
cross-correlations to see what was the best
thing, what was the best line, or what were the best space
of lines that could be used. And we used criteria that
I shared with you earlier. And we also did a lot
of tests with folks with accessibility needs. And the trick here
wasn’t to say, look, this is what you have to
do for the design system. The result was to say, here
are things to think about. And here is the particular
line that performs the best– if you like– for
all these criteria. But here are, like,
15 versions that all sit within a space of actually
doing quite well for end users, for the most end
users there are. That doesn’t mean to say
that any other design isn’t a good one. Just by the criteria
that I specified, that that facet of the end user
psychoperceptual experience, and also the
qualitative experience– it turned out that this
was the one that worked. And you’ll see this
one is actually in the spec. And one of the things
we’ve been meaning to do– I keep promising, but we haven’t
actually done it yet, sorry– is write up all of the
methodology for this. Because one of the other
things that I really want to do is export the methods we use
as part of the design system. And the methods that
we’re inventing. So if that’s one example of
the kind of experimental work that we’ve done with
a particular element and on other elements, I
just want to quickly talk about context and combinations. And this is the stuff
that is hot off the press. So you will have no
answers, just provocations. So information density and text. So you’ve got “Harry Potter
and the Chamber of Secrets” on one side and you’ve got
James Joyce’s “Dubliners” on the other. One might argue that
these differ extremely in other kinds of density– not just text, but we’re
going for text right now. So if you use text and you
type out the same font size– this is what you end up with. This is what it looks like. So I think you can really
see that they’re different. But the question is, what
works and what doesn’t work? And for whom and
under what conditions? So here’s inner density. And this is the degree
of compactness of objects within a single container. And you can see– like I said when we were
working with the designers with the line to come up
with these different things to play with– here, we’re using
visualizations, or animations, to really try to think about,
what gets squeezed and what doesn’t? And so, I would like
you to look at this and just think about the example
I gave you earlier– which is the thing that
you’re using at home, some discretionary
experience while you’re sitting on your
sofa versus you’re an absolute expert
in spreadsheets, and you’re at work. And you want to do
at-a-glance viewing. So these are the kinds of ways– I think– that we’re
trying to experiment with what works when. So here’s outer density– this is compactness across
multiple containers. And here, you’ve got the
pertinent information to all information on
the page being extended, and retracted, and
extended, and retracted. So, I think, you can
start to see here, how we start to play with this
idea of density and experience. And overload or under load. So I guess, under
load would be I don’t have enough
information in here. What do I need to do in order
to get that information? So here is the work in
progress, here are the thoughts. So if you’re deciding how
dense a design should be– here are some
things to consider. The user intent– I gave the example between
sitting on the sofa and at work. The complexity of
the content itself. The interaction complexity–
so the content complexity is can you at-a-glance
understand what it is that you need to see? The interaction complexity is
how many things do you need to do with that information? And then there’s also the
information architecture. Because if you need to go and
find something somewhere else, how do you do that? And is it clear and obvious
to you how you do it? And so here’s one
of the guidelines that Michael was sharing
with me the other day– increase inner and outer, but
keep the information constant. And that’s, sort of, based
on talking to people, and looking at people doing
tasks, and thinking about, and seeing where they seem
to have that stress that I was talking about earlier– where people seem to
get super stressed. So there’s a whole
load of research– I’m sure many of you know this– in the games industry, where
they will actually do– there will be a
camera on your face. And they will look to
see if you’re engaged and delighted or not by the
facial expressions you make. When you do this kind of work,
it’s a little bit more subtle. But you could see
people going, what? What? Where is it? And you can see confusion,
and you can see stress, and you can see anxiety. And people may not report later
that they had a difficult time with something. But if you’re watching
closely and observing, you can often see that
somebody is doing a lot of work to do something. And that is probably– unless you’re
playing a game trying to increase your expertise– that’s possibly, not a
delightful experience. So I wanted to
leave a lot of time for questions so I’m going
to wrap up right now. But I do want to go
back to a few points. I want to think about this– so here are various different
versions of Mendeleev’s periodic table and beyond. And so, it wasn’t that
something was done and then it was
done– like I say. It was, very much, a generative
framework for thinking and for predicting. And design systems
really do bring in the research, the
design, and the engineering together, to really
help us think about what are the provocations? What are the prototypes? How do you push something? How do you then evaluate it? And I hope what
I’ve shown you is that some of the
methods that we use may need to be invented
in order to answer these complex questions
in a deep way. Because the other thing what we
want to do is generate insights that can be picked up by
others and interpreted in other contexts. So it’s much more of that
scientific, ongoing community of practice, and sharing, and
this critical investigation. And systems are always evolving. And they are never done. And that’s what makes
them kind of exciting. And we’ve seen with
material design– material design has
resulted in a number of offshoots of things that are
inspired by material design. Or use some elements of material
design, but extend the system. And we have a number
of researchers who are thinking about that in
terms of systems of systems. And what are the core elements
that repeat, and replicate, and repeat? And what are the
elements that go away? And as I said earlier–
what are the elements that will emerge through new
device structures and device underlying infrastructures? So I want to come back
to the idea of elemental and then I want to
get some questions and try and get
some dialogue going so it is primary and
basic I do believe that a lot of the
work we’re doing is to look at these elements
that are primary and basic and then can be brought together
to create really interesting and delightful experiences. And I think, the old adage is
often when you get it right, people don’t notice, and
it’s when you get it wrong that they really notice. What is this experience
that you have in a small moment with
a small set of elements combined in the right way
that has a big impact? That really changes the
atmosphere of your day? That creates the
atmosphere of your day? And as I say– being a little bit magical
about that is important, but what I hope
I’ve shown you is that I think that
you can get to magic through pretty rigorous
science combined with great design and
great engineering. And that’s what we will
probably want to do– create some magic. But know we’ve got it right, and
we understand why it’s magic. And so, thank you
for your attention. We have a chunk of
time for questions. So I’m hoping I’m going to
get some really good ones. So thank you. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: So as you’re
pushing the envelope of design and making all these changes– how do you address all of the
learned behavior by end users? So they’ve been using
systems, they’ve learned it. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: I think
it’s a really good question. And we know that there
are learned behaviors and then there are
general resistances to any kind of change– which it’s important. But I think, what one has to
do is do effective onboarding into the new. And what, I think, history will
show and research has shown is that if there’s a
significant benefit, people will make the effort. The other thing is
to make whatever change you make be very
articulable and really exciting. Because we talk
about the end user, but there’s actually
end use– there’s use. And there is seldom,
any situation in which there is a singleton
person once you go away from the interaction
with the screen. So if you have had a great
experience with something and you’re, like, Elizabeth–
can you just get off that app? Because this one does it much
better, I’m going to show you. It’s only going to take you
five minutes to learn this, and here’s the benefit– I’m going to do it. And I’m going to try it
once I’ve seen the benefit. So I think articulating, very
clearly, what the benefit is. Potentially articulating
what the pain might be. And actually having others
recruited to actually be the people who are onboard– what we used to call
the late adopters. I call myself the
resistant adopter. I am completely a
creature of habit. But I think, not thinking
of it just simply as here’s a new design, have at it– but actually, it’s a whole– I don’t want to use the word
marketing– but it’s a selling. It’s a here’s the benefit. And it’s a get your friends
to use it and talk about it. And show people how. And I think, the
worst case scenario is when you change
something, and you don’t signal it’s coming down. Has anybody in this room
had that experience, where something just changed? [LAUGHS] I don’t believe
there’s a single person in this room who hasn’t
had that experience. Shocking people is not the best
way to introduce something new. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to have two questions. So you can just
answer the first one. But just pigging
back off that one– you’re a person, you
said, of resistance. So you’ve put yourself
in a place where it’s totally against that. So I’m curious– how have you
made yourself be adaptable towards– material design is doing good. But now you’re
thinking of how can you take it to the next level? So what have you done for
yourself and your team to think beyond
the now and next? And the next one is,
what tools have you used to synthesize all
the data you’ve gotten? Because there’s a lot of data
to come up with some metrics. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: So
on the first question– what have I done to change? Really, it’s just
taking myself in hand. It’s just saying, go and try it. Just try it out. And I will confess, that I
actually have two phones. And I have, like,
several tablets. And so I tend to have my– this is the go-to one that I
use for, like, urgent things. And this is the experimental one
that I will try new things with and try new things out. But I think, it’s just being in
the spirit of experimentation. And I can honestly
say that it’s also feeling a little bit of
a sense of responsibility because of my role
to try things. And so if I can’t be
the kind of person who tries new things, then why
would I expect other people to? But I have definitely
just tried to do that. And I think, the other
thing is to start to think about how often these
tools or these whatever they are, like, draw us into habits? And do I want to
actually reflect on and break that habit? So actually, I think,
with digital well-being, and mindfulness, and so forth– I’m oddly, actually, trying
to break a few things. To see if there are ways that
I could be more effective, more efficient, spend less time. And will that increase my
general sense of well-being? I’m questioning whether I
really need certain things. So I’m really excited
that the world is starting to talk more about this. I’m also really excited that
people, consumers, and so forth are demanding
more around, can you make this easier to use? Can you make it better to use? Can you make it more
aesthetically pleasing? Can you actually take
up less of my time? I think it’s really good. And in terms of the tools– I’m not the best person to ask. Because I know there’s
Mechanical Turk. I know R is involved. I know there’s a bunch of
data wrangling and so forth. But the team that did all of the
research, would be the people. And I can certainly give
you more information and more details. I also know that
they’re seriously experimental with all
the tools they use. Because you learn one and
then you’re, like, oh, that one might do better for me. But I’d be delighted to
find out more for you. AUDIENCE: My first question
was that you said that– once you figure
something out, you want to understand the magic. So my question is– if you did figure something out,
does it remain magic anymore? Because magic– for me– is
something which is surprising, and you don’t understand,
and it’s beautiful, and it’s astonishing. That’s what magic is to me. So I wanted to get
your comment on it. And the second part was have
you come across anything that has been
idiosyncratic in design? Because when you use a
lot of different layers– and I refer to as [INAUDIBLE]
like, historical layers in cities, you
sometimes reveal things that, otherwise, you would
not have seen individually. But by layering things
together, it actually shows you something that you,
otherwise, should not see. Has something like
that happened? And if so, where? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: I’ll
answer the first question– I don’t remember. What was the first
question, again? Like, loading the questions up– Magic– oh, no, no, no, Magic– well, I think what you’ve
gathered from, maybe, a little bit of
my talk is that I find humans absolutely
fascinating and utterly wonderful. I always say, I love my species. I’m just really excited. So if you find something magical
and I have some understanding of why you find it magical– that, to me, is more magical. I am just so excited about
humans understanding humans, understanding us. And so if you see a child
go [GASP] at something– some new toy or something–
you know that there’s, like, this amazing sense of wonder. Because they’re going to explore
it, and learn it, and it’s new, and it’s exciting. And if you’ve seen a child
learn how to read a word and they finally get it–
that sense of accomplishment. If you’ve been trying
to teach somebody how to snowboard and then
they get down, finally. And they don’t
fall over, and you see that look of
joy on their face because they have
mastered that thing– there’s nothing more magical or
exciting in the world– to me– than to see those
kinds of moments. And I’m sure people in this
room who have designed things– when you’ve worked, and you’ve
worked, and you’ve worked, and you’ve tried something. And then you build a
prototype of something, and you put it in front of
somebody, and they go [GASP],, I think that’s magical
for you to- right? That’s magic. Then where there things
that were surprising to me by combining things
and I hadn’t expected? That is such a good question. I think I have a lot
of little examples, but I’m not sure I can
come up with a big example. I’ll give you an example
from a very long time ago. I was working on large
interactive displays in public spaces. And my team had
installed one in a cafe. And we had put, like,
a scribble out– you’d use your finger to
just draw on something. And we thought it was just
going to be used for news. Just– I don’t even know
what we really thought. And I was getting all of
these scribble drawings coming to me and so forth. And I was absolutely
excited when I started to see these
conversations coming out in these drawings. So somebody would watch
someone else do a drawing, and then that person
would sit down. The other person would come
up and do another drawing. And they ended up being
chained into conversations that became real conversations. So I’m not sure if that’s
quite what you call a process, but we had the context– which was this cafe. And I did not think that people
would be talking to each other, necessarily. It was an information
consumption point, but it became a creativity
collaboration point. And just the sheer, again,
creativity and conversation. And we, kind of, created
what microsociologists call a ticket to talk. But people were
talking in person and through these sketches
that they were doing– one after the other. It was just this really,
magical moment of this– I don’t know– choreographed,
semi-choreographed creativity. Which I just, again,
made me really excited about tools in the right
hands in the right context. AUDIENCE: So let’s take–
for example– that form and that line, where you
gather so much qualitative and quantitative
research to find the magic element that performed
the best for your average user. But have you done anything where
you’re actually almost, like, finding different
paths, depending on what demographic
you’re actually trying to move through the process? Let’s say, that my niece
will find a form different than I will find. Or my mom will actually
be able to get through. And not only that, but my
mom– who’s in Columbia, South America– will find it
different than someone here or someone in the other side of
the world, say, like in Asia. So is there a place where
you see these design elements and patterns trifurcating
or bifurcating– or whatever the word is– where the actual preference
lies with the end user, who gets to actually
choose how they can move through the
experience in a better way? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: So
we haven’t done a lot of extensive research on that. But you put your finger right
on a very critical button, that we want to do more of that. I think, where we
have done some of that is people with
accessibility issues, especially visual impairment. We’ve done quite a
lot of work on that. And we did some initial work– which was, I would say,
rather simplistic first take on looking at some cultural
differences around information density. And one of the things that
has come up for us– and we’re actually, a relatively small
team so we haven’t really looked at this. But really interested
in looking at things like cognitive impairment
and some of those dimensions. So I’m really
pleased you brought that up because I think it’s
critical and really important. But honestly, we haven’t
done any really rigorous work in that space. So if you have pointers
for where to start, I would love to hear from you. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you so much for your talk. It was awesome. My name’s Ben [INAUDIBLE]. And I have more of a
change management question. So you talked a lot about
science and experimentation. But hypothetically
speaking– if you work in an organization that’s
more in a creationist model still, do any
recommendations how to nudge towards more
scientific experimentation, instead of believing that
dinosaurs lived 2,000 years ago or whatever? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
Let me think. Well, I think, it’s about
breaking the question down into something that is
meaningful for the people who are doing the creationist thing. So I very fundamentally
believe that science and experimentation are
not antithetical– is that the right word– to really,
really great creative work. And I have to say, we work
with amazing designers. And a few of the designers
that we work with– at the beginning of
thinking about this– well, that kind of sounds
cool, but is that going to stifle my creativity? And once we started saying
no, this is a collaboration– because actually,
we can take all of these creative
dimensions that you’ve got and we can help you
break them down to see how people react to them. And then we can do some tests. And like I said,
we’re not telling you what’s right or wrong. We’re saying here
are the parameters that we built together. And here are how they
perform for people. Because, ultimately– honestly– I wouldn’t say I’ve found
no people like this, but I have seldom found
people in our industry who, when you say– are you interested in
understanding how and why people love what you do? Are you interested in
getting some feedback on what works in what
population and for why– I have never met anyone
who’s just said– I have met some, but very few– who have said, no, I’m
going to do my thing. Now, I think it
is perfectly fine to be someone who
really, truly is a creative in your own space,
doing your own dimensions, or whatever. I think, if Cezanne
had asked for feedback or Rilke had– we might have
very different artifacts. But they weren’t necessarily in
the business of building things to delight people in practice. And so, I think it’s just
finding that bit of curiosity. And demonstrating– find your– I was going to say weakest
link, but let me say, your strongest link. And demonstrate with
them in partnership, how this can come together. And we know what
people are like. They get curious. And then they’ll come
and ask questions. And they’ll go, that
might be good for me, too. So I think, it’s about
being a little persuasive. And picking the
critical little moment that others are going to go,
huh, I wish I had one of those. But we can talk more about
your specific context. AUDIENCE: So the metaphor
and the framework that you’ve developed for
this concept event– elemental is very much grounded
in the visual. And I’m wondering, if you’ve
given much thought to extending it into some of the emerging
interface paradigms, like, voice or spatial–
things like that? And how it applies. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: I have
personally done some thinking, like, scrappy thinking. But it has not been part of the
main research program to date. Because material is
primarily visual. But I would say that a
bunch of my history reading around sound design,
psychoacoustics– those sorts of things– I’ve been really interested
in, how does that break down? How does a room, and a
space, and all of that work? Also, thinking about
things, like, hearing, and hyper-acuity, and
those sort of things– how do you get attention? I mentioned the example
of an alarm design– how do those work with
people, under what context? But it’s been super informal. We did a lot of work– when
I was talking about the large interactive display stuff– we did a bunch of work
which was about proximity. And what can you read,
and what can you not read? And how do people stand together
around a physical display? And there’s a whole fantastic
literature, called “Proxemics,” which is about proximity. And there’s social proxemics. So in different cultures– we
we’re talking about culture– how willing people are
to stand next to you. You know when you go
to an art gallery, and someone comes– and you’re
looking at this picture, and someone comes and
stands, like, here? And you have to shuffle. And then you’re like, now I
can’t see the picture full on. There’s a lot of
fantastic research which is videoing and watching
how people shift and move around each other. AUDIENCE: The elevator
dynamic– right? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: Yes. AUDIENCE: Where you
stand in the elevator. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
Yes, exactly. And I think there’s a lot of
really lovely design patterns to be done. And there’s a lot of
literature on this but we haven’t
mined it to come up with here are the guidelines. I think, voice is a
particularly interesting one. Because a lot of voice
interactive artifacts right now are for all kinds of technical
and practical reasons– kind of, command line
call and respond. But there’s some
really interesting work that’s been done by
conversation analysts, on what would it mean
to actually design for a conversation? And in fact, there’s a chap
at IBM, called Bob Moore– who I used to work with– and he and his
collaborator are just bringing out a book– which
I reviewed, fairly recently. Which is about taking the
principles of conversation analysis and conversation
structure and saying, what would the
patterns look like to take the voice
command control thing into more of a conversation? And I think, really
interesting aspects of that are, where
does state remain? And how do you have both
sides maintaining state? And that, of course, brings
up a whole different set of questions around a
different set of patterns– which are data and privacy. So I think that’s a really
interesting area to explore. And honestly– it’s
armchair reading for me, but I really think it’s
important first to explore it. Thank you for bringing that up. AUDIENCE: If you find humans
interesting and magical– try to study animals,
they are even better. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: Any
animals in particular? AUDIENCE: Yeah, like, all
animals are really interesting. And also, a real
appreciate Google, that they share all the
knowledge, especially material design. They have been sharing that
with the design community and everyone. I really appreciate that. Can you tell me more,
a little bit about why Google made that decision? I feel, like, a lot of companies
try to keep everything secret and not share that. But Google is going in the other
way– that’s what I perceive, ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
I don’t know why, but I know that it’s baked
into the DNA of Google. And I think, from the very
beginning, it was open, and open source, and
sharing, and so forth. I know from
conversations with people who were around when material
design first launched– as I say, I wasn’t– that the idea is to
really use the resources that we have to not
just influence and be a leader in design. But to give people the
tools to do great design. And that you can have
better user experiences around the world if you give
people the tools to do it. And so, I think, for the
folks who started material– it was really about, it’s not
about hoarding this design thing. Because it is a participatory– I think, I said it
takes a village. And you can’t answer
everything internally. And this is too important not
to share some of this knowledge. But you also get
the other effect, which is that then
you become a leader, and recognized as a
key leader in design– which Google did
a few years ago. And Google had not been
recognized for design particularly before that. So this systematic effort by
a bunch of brilliant people really put us on
the map for design. But also, influenced and
brought a lot of people on. And, I think, that’s part of
the DNA and the importance– it’s just in the system. And I hope it
maintains eternally. Because I do believe
that it takes all of us thinking about
experience and user experience to really do great things
with our digital interactions and beyond. And, I think, that is
why I’m really interested in the question earlier–
which is around, what are the cultural differences? And what are the things
that remain the same between different humans? What are the things that
are culturally specified? And how do you really support
the right critical questions in that space, as well? AUDIENCE: I have a question
about the research methods. So it looked like when you
are testing the element– at least in the
example provided– that you weren’t
using real content, it was just, like,
generic [INAUDIBLE].. Obviously, content
contributes to how users are able to understand
and interact with components. So I was curious
how you approach evaluating the success of an
element when that dimension is abstracted? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: Well,
I think the purpose here was to figure out the element
and put it in the context– which was somewhat
ecologically valid because it was like–
so it was separate, but then it was also
in different kinds of structures of table. And for sure– if this was
very salient information to you or familiar information, you’d
probably behave differently. But honestly, I
think, it just came down to what is the
minimal that we can do to actually look at this thing? Because you could end
up boiling the ocean with every different context. Now, I think, what
you said does really matter was in the density stuff. So rather than
specific content, I can imagine one dimension
to go into is this, like– are you working on an
enterprise application, and you are an expert? And that dense information
is what you want because you know where to look. that is going to be really
importantly different, than if you’re in this
discretionary space. So I think in that
more, abstract line– I think, we just
wanted to show which were the kinds of lines that
performed the best in a variety of different contexts. But I think, where it starts to
get really important is things, like, information density. Because then with a line, you
can get away with it more. But the user intent
and the context is really important
for this other one. So I think, we’re going
to have to be even more careful about picking
that up, finding out what are the right conditions– which are sufficiently
different, but representative of
different dimensions. And that work is being
done and ongoing right now. It’s a great
question because I do think it really does matter in
some context more than others. And I think we’re
coming across those now. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you for the talk. It’s very insightful. I’m wondering–
how do you develop the criteria by which to measure
the success of a design system? Like, in the form example–
you showed the criteria that was used in those tests. I’m wondering if there
are less obvious criteria, such as business goes– something like that? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
I think that relates to the last question. I think there are. And I think, it’s
important to start to boil those down or
reduce them to things that are tractable within a study. And then– honestly–
my hope is that if we start to publish our methods,
you and your particularly different business
contexts might work with you in a
different business context. And then, [AUDIO OUT] you
say doesn’t generalize, doesn’t transfer. Because that is also– that is the project
of anything that is science, which is
to try and figure out what the next thing is. Where something does work. Where does it not generalize? How does it apply? So we’re a very small team. And my hope is that some of the
things that I talk about here or some of the
things we publish– others will try. And like I said– the project
of anything that’s science is about telling us, doesn’t
work in this context. Let’s try it in
this other context. And here’s why it didn’t work. So I think, the question
is the right one, we were super pragmatic. AUDIENCE: Thanks, I know
we’re running out of time– but I was really curious
about the bit you mentioned about production. Your work is clearly,
very thoughtful and has a lot of considerations. Is there a technique
or two that you use to help good meat
done, in some way? ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
Help good meat done? AUDIENCE: Yeah. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
What do you mean? Sorry. AUDIENCE: Taking the research
that you’re doing and getting it to a point where
you’re comfortable with it being correct. And then put it into
production or get production to be efficiently met. So it doesn’t just keep
going on as research. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL:
Oh, yeah– absolutely. And that’s, again, where
the project of science is never quite done. But a study is done. So that recommendation
for that particular line or whatever is– look, this might
not be the best line for everybody in every context. But it performed
the best against all of the other options in
these particular contexts. Please try it, and see
how that works for you. We do that ourselves, as well. And then the next
research project might be that a bunch of
teams at Google try that out. And to the question earlier–
the great question earlier– they try it out and they’re,
like– in this context, it worked. And in this context, it didn’t. And then we work
with teams at Google and also try and get feedback
from teams externally. To say, OK, maybe
we’ll do another study. So the specific
research project ends, and a recommendation is made
with a particular confidence level. But that doesn’t mean that
it’s the be all and end all. And so, the trick, I think,
is to give a rationale, and give a method, and
keep an eye on something. And maybe do more studies. But the studies are a
different kind of study. So they become splinters
of the original study, which, like, investigate
context or something. But everyone in this room
who’s done any design work knows that you
can go on forever. And ultimately, there are
certain performance indicators, and measures, and metrics,
which may be yours or may be the business’s. And you are privy
to them and you are prey to them–
whatever the term is. Those are the things
you need to land. So one of the classic things,
of course, is change– change management. So people will put something
that is palpably better out. And everyone who’s
a user will go, eh. And that time for
change won’t be allowed so you never really get
the key measures, and metrics, and so forth. And to show that you’ve
actually improved an experience. And so, I think that’s where
the great creative moments are going to come– which is, how do
we figure out what’s the right time frame for something to
be adopted, and changed– and the change in a
positive direction? And so I’m super interested
also in finding out what the measures are
and the indicators are. And actually having
some time baked in where you have
different time frames– like, beacons– to come back and
check and come back and check trajectories over time. And we don’t have the resources
to do a lot of that right now. But as we partner more
and more with teams– that kind of
conversation happens. I hope that answered
your question. [APPLAUSE] Thanks for the great question. SARAH WILSON: Thanks,
everyone, for coming out. We’ll have our next month’s
speaker announced shortly. Hope everyone comes back. ELIZABETH CHURCHILL: I
have one last thing, which is I have some cards here. Anybody who wants to be
involved in any studies– come and get a card please. We need you to come and help us. And you know what will be great
if you come and do studies with us? Is you’re all critically
reflective people. So you’ll all go, I don’t think
this study is designed right. And we need to hear that, too. So please pick up a card,
if you’re interested. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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