Should Design Be Held Back by a Tyranny of Data

The NYTimes interviewed Doug Bowman to talk about his departure from Google, which Bowman wrote about on his blog in March. Bowman came onto Google as their first Visual Designer 3 years ago, and left in March. Some quotes from the article:

Bowman on Google:

“Data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions,”

Bowman on Twitter, where he is now Creative Director:

He has also found a new way to listen to customers: reading their tweets in reaction to the new design features.

“Using data is fundamental to what we do,” Mr. Bowman said. “But we take all that with a grain of salt. Anytime you make design changes, the most vocal people are the ones who dislike what you’ve done. We don’t just throw the numbers in a spreadsheet.”

Deborah Dunn, associate professor at the Stanford Institute of Design:

Adhering too rigidly to a design philosophy guided by “Web analytics,” Ms. Dunn said, “makes it very difficult to take bold leaps.”

“It is more from engaging with users, watching what they do, understanding their pain points, that you get big leaps in design,” Ms. Dunn said.