Brands

How Google Designs Great Content, in 5 Steps

As brands put more focus and resources towards creating content, one of the biggest challenges they face is making sure their content isn’t just on brand, but that it breaks through and reaches people.

To create this type of content for its global audience, Google, a company whose corporate motto used to be “Don’t be evil,” turns to one of psychology’s best-known constructs for its content design strategy.

“We organized it around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” Rob Giampietro, the creative lead of Google Design, said at a recent PixelTalks event. Giampietro was joined by Amber Bravo, an editor at Google Design, to reveal the five steps Google takes in creating its content.

Step #1: Make lives easier

To explain the first step in Google’s hierarchy of good design, Giampietro brought up a project that originally fell outside of material design: the relaunch of Google Fonts. Going into the relaunch, Bravo and her team thought about “how we talk and educate people about type design, and how we get people to know type designers and their work.”

More than just making a platform for fonts, the team at Google thought about how would they improve the designers’ experience producing and sharing those fonts, which would make it easier for the company to reach its audience.

Step #2: Share and collaborate

The promotion for Google Fonts didn’t just consist of a simple blog post listing the new features and a quote from the project leader. Google commissioned a new font, Space Mono, from Colophon Foundry, which then “wrote a really lovely essay about their process and what they were thinking.”

This opened up a dialogue about typography, and, by highlighting something cool made with Fonts, encouraged other people to start using the new product.

Step #3: Inspire and surprise

Once that dialogue was established, members of Google’s design team worked with NASA and the National Geologic Survey to create a promotional book about the new font.

Space Mono Specimen for #google (2016)

A photo posted by Colophon Foundry (@colophonfoundry) on

According to Giampietro, “When you put these things out, people get really excited and share pictures of them and thank you for them.” When executed properly, the content can even be as exciting for an audience as the product it’s promoting.

Step #4: Invest in the community

How does Google keep the conversation going after a product launch? Being one of the richest companies on the planet does give it an advantage, since Google isn’t shy about spending whatever it takes to give the campaign the best chance to succeed. For example, for the new fonts, Google sponsored Typographics, an annual design conference.

“It was our way to launch a product and talk about that product and our work,” Giampietro said, “and also be part of the community, be on the ground, and hear what’s important to type designers.”

Sponsorships don’t just warm designers up to Google because of the money, they provide access Google can use to iterate its product to better address user concerns.

Step #5: Be human

That brings us to Google’s final step on the design hierarchy. The entire Google Fonts project was born from Giampietro realizing, “We care about typography, we love typography, and value typographers and their work, and we show that by going the extra mile to give them a great platform to show these projects.”

During the Q&A after the keynote, when asked about the homogenization of contemporary design, Giampietro also reminded the audience, “Interfaces are fashion … and fashion is information. Fashion communicates.”

When thinking about design strategy, remember to take a look at what everyone else is doing and consider what your design says to an audience. MasterCard, for instance, just changed its logo. Giampietro noted that “by doing what MasterCard did, they signaled to other people that they are more like an internet startup than a huge financial corporation, and that was important to them.”

Essentially, design like what you want to be—not what you already are.

Image by Albert Cheung
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