Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exploring Design @ Google - Kelcey Rushing

Introduction: Today we’re launching Exploring Design @ Google, a new blog series highlighting the work of the user experience (UX) team at Google. The user experience team is a multi-disciplinary team of designers and researchers who collaborate with engineering and product management to create innovative, usable, great-looking products that people love to use. The mantra of the the team is: "Focus on the user and all else will follow." Each week, we will feature a different Googler on the team and talk to them about their role, their background and what they love about working for Google. For our first post, we sat down for a few questions with Kelcey Rushing, a visual designer in Seattle.

What does user experience mean to you?
Kelsey Rushing:
Understanding who the user is and what they need, and designing a product or feature that best fulfills that need. It sounds simple enough but the path from need to solution has a bajillion forks in it. The challenge lies in making the best decisions with the help of research, competitive analysis, team brainstorms and feedback, multiple iterations, learning from past missteps and sometimes instinctive leaps of faith. Add in deadlines, limitations and stakeholder requests and you have yourself a pretty fun puzzle to solve that makes the work that much more rewarding.

How does your role fit into the larger team?
KR: I’m one of three designers on my team, and we’re involved with every phase of a project from planning to polish. For large projects, the whole team works on a strategy and then engineers and designers partner up to implement the ideas. Then we’ll help marketing spread the word with interesting visuals, and make any necessary improvements once the user feedback starts rolling in.

Tell us about a day in the life of a visual designer.
KR: 
Most days at Google go something like this:
9:00 Arrive at work and grab a healthy, tasty breakfast
9-9:30 Catch up on email while eating breakfast, then head to the micro-kitchen with my fellow designers to get coffee and talk about what we’re working on
9:30-12:00 Work and/or meetings until lunch
12:00-12:30 Eat an amazing lunch with my team and top it off with fro-yo
12:30-5:00 Work and/or meetings until it’s time to go home
When the sun comes out in Seattle, we take walks down on the canal next to the office, and once in awhile I’ll stay late for a massage or to work out in the gym down the hall. It’s a pretty rough life.

How does a visual designer work with engineers?
KR:
It varies a bit from project to project but generally we’ll start by brainstorming and sketching together to make sure we’re on the same page. Next, I’ll make low-fidelity storyboards of the flows while the engineer starts coding the initial framework. After, I’ll move on to mocks that we use to get approval from stakeholders, do rough usability testing and find out where we need to make adjustments. Once everything is fairly close to final, I’ll start polishing the visuals and making sure the engineer has all the information and files they need to get the project ready for launch.

What is the most interesting project to date that you have worked on?
KR: 
All of my projects have been interesting—that’s why I love my job! Even the ones that seem mundane on the surface turn into fun challenges once I’ve talked with the team that’s passionate about them. That being said, there are two projects that stand out as the most interesting and/or exciting for me: traveling to the Zurich office for a product re-design and making custom Google+ profile photos for celebrities last Halloween.

What was your path to Google?
KR: 
After college I worked for a year in real estate, where I discovered a passion for designing flyers and building web sites. That led me to the Seattle Central Creative Academy and I was hired by a Seattle startup right out of design school. After working there for about nine months, we were acquired by Google and I’ve been here ever since.

What did you study in school to prepare you for work in user experience?
KR: 
At the University of Washington I double-majored in communications and French. Then I went back to school for two years to get an Associate of Applied Science degree in graphic design & illustration. That’s a fancy way of saying that the program’s main focus was teaching us skills that would apply directly to a job in user experience.

If you were able to go back in time and take one more college class, what would it be and why?
KR: 
My design program was incredible when I attended a few years ago, and the teachers are constantly updating the courses to keep up with the ever-changing tech world. There are new classes cropping up every year that I wish I could take. But if I had to choose just one, I’d like to take an HTML5 course because those skills would be useful in my current role at Google.

What do you love most about working for Google?
KR: 
It’s really hard to choose just one thing so I’m going to be tricky and say the culture, which covers almost all of it. Googlers are a friendly, good-hearted bunch of rock stars and the company treats its employees so well it’s hard to believe most of the time. There are opportunities to travel to Google offices all over the world, and the work is challenging, impactful and rewarding. All of these things are encouraged as part of the company’s unique culture. There’s also a strong design community here so there’s an opportunity to learn and collaborate with hundreds of other designers.

Interested in the role of User Experience Designer? Apply here today!

[courtesy:google student blog]

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