Today’s post is a continuation of our Young Innovators @ Google series, where we’re highlighting the great work of Googlers who, not too long ago, were students like you. In their short careers, these engineers, designers and product managers have had an impact on Google and our products. For today’s post, we sat down with Noah Levin, an interaction designer at Google.
Tell us about your path to Google.
Noah Levin: I first took interest in design through an early admiration of digital abstract art. I was enthralled with the way that technology could unlock creative expression in a completely new way. Then eventually through reading “Design of Everyday things” and “Don’t Make Me Think”, I learned that design was not just about how things look, but how they work, and I decided I wanted to learn more about the field in school. I also was very interested in musical theater at the time and wanted to attend a college that had both options, so Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in my hometown Pittsburgh, PA was a perfect fit. I studied Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) with a minor in Communication Design, and also learned a lot during two summer internships at a small design firm in Pittsburgh. I decided to stay at CMU for my masters degree in HCI, part of which involved an amazing experience designing a cuff-mounted interface for astronauts at NASA in Mountain View. While on the west coast, I had a chance to interview with Google and now I’m loving it here!
|Noah was recently featured in +Life at Google‘s Do Cool Things That Matter series – check out his full feature video below!
What was the first project you worked on at Google?
NL: Before transitioning to work on the Google Search app, I worked briefly on a fun project to help design an interface for related searches and visual refinements. The feature makes it easier to get to the information you are most likely to search for next, based on a wide variety of signals. For example, after searching [van gogh], it’s very likely you may also want to see his paintings, like [the starry night]. This feature still exists today, and is now built into knowledge cards on the search page. Try it out!
In what ways have you been able to innovate at Google?
NL: After just a few months of working here, I found out I’d be working on the Google Search app for iOS. Each day I come into work thrilled to have the chance to design interactions for a product that helps millions of people find the information they need every day, and I’m very lucky to collaborate with such a talented team of engineers to find new ways to make the app more useful, beautiful and easier to use.
Since joining the team, I’ve led the design through four major efforts: redesigning the ipad search experience including new interactions like a sliding web results page to get back and forth between search results and answers faster, redesigning the iphone search experience with a simplified interface and beautiful full screen image results, designing a new voice search experience with text to speech results, and most recently, bringing Google Now to iOS in the Google Search app. I am involved in all stages of the design process, from leading brainstorm sessions and creating sketches and mock ups early on to help define the vision, to refining those ideas using animation and interactive HTML / CSS prototypes, and finally providing high resolution assets and detailed implementation specifications to make the product really come to life.
Also, because Google is such an open and collaborative company, I often enjoy volunteering time outside of my primary project. For example, I worked with engineers to update many of the images we use on Google search to look crisp on high resolution displays and helped unify our navigation across devices including a fun subtle animation for search tools, in addition to spending 20% of my time working with the doodle team. It’s been quite a ride, and I can’t wait to keep building.
What was your involvement in launching Google Now for iOS?
NL: When Google Now launched on Android last year at Google I/O, people really enjoyed how it makes computers do the hard work, empowering you to find the information you need before you even ask. We’ve been collaborating closely with the Android team to think about ways to bring this great predictive information to more people. After spending a lot of time getting to know the product philosophy and current usage patterns, I began sketching, making Photoshop mock ups, and building prototypes to illustrate how this might feel in the context of the iOS app.
The Android team set a new bar for great design with their work on Google Now, so we knew that every moment, every pixel and animation, had to keep that bar high. I worked very closely with our engineers to refine the details to make sure everything felt fast, smooth, and polished. I’m quite proud of how things turned out, and am excited to finally see it out in the world.
What has surprised you most about working at Google?
NL: How much flexibility, freedom, and influence we have building products that reach hundreds of millions of people every day. I guess I expected to be working on small pieces of Google Search with a huge team and largely predefined requirements, but sure enough soon after joining, here I was fresh out of college working directly with just a few engineers and a product manager shaping and defining the best possible search experience on iOS. I was given the freedom to explore all sorts of concepts to figure out what we could do to make search feel fast and delightful, and had an amazing time refining these designs with such talented coworkers.
After we launched the redesign of the iPhone app, I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I first saw someone interacting with it casually while on a bus in San Francisco. They were touching and swiping things that I had once thought about and sketched on a whiteboard. The fact that this sketch can reach across the globe is incredibly eye opening, and really drives you every day to keep doing what you’re doing.
What has been your favorite part about working at Google?
NL: There’s a lot to pick from, but I one thing I think is truly unique is how many talented and approachable engineers and designers there are here. I love being able to reach out and have lunch with the amazing people who design products I use every day from Chrome, Gmail, Google Drive, Maps, and my favorite, the lovely and creative folks who make the Google Doodles! I’m proud to now not only call these people my coworkers, but my friends.
Any good stories?
NL: I was shopping at an antique shop in San Francisco and noticed the owner was using the Google Search app on his iPhone. I was thrilled to see that and started chatting with him about it. When I mentioned I helped design it, he said “Oh great!” followed by something I always love hearing from people when I tell them I work at Google, “So I have some feedback for you.” I asked what was up, and he said, “You know… this logo here…” he points at the Google logo, “it just… it looks a little too much like the eBay logo. You should change that.” I hadn’t heard that one before, but happily replied, “You know, I can’t take credit for that, but I’ll pass along the feedback!”
Posted by Sarah Henderson, People Programs Specialist