Rachel Been from Material
Play • 19 min

Material Design Creative Director Rachel Been on creating a design system at scale, emoji, and the creative power of curiosity.

A few highlights:

On the challenge of making a design system at scale, 1:23

“To create a system that potentially works for thousands of products to use. To define and spec a button that thousands of different product teams could functionally use. It’s a challenge to make that work.”

On becoming a designer, 7:18

“I have a really atypical background. I studied art history in college. I was a photojournalist. I was going to be a photographer. Thought I wanted to be a war photographer.”

On the surprising power of anxiety and curiosity, 14:11

“The anxiety of persistent imposter syndrome—as uncomfortable as that is on a daily basis—has led me to expand my capabilities and feel empowered in many ways. Not coming from a super traditional design background, curiosity was the only way that I could survive in this world and teach myself the skill set needed to do my job.”

Handy info and links for this episode:

  • Material Design: A design system, created by Google, for crafting digital experiences
  • PgM: Program Manager, the person tracking the day-to-day progress of a project
  • Unicode Consortium: A non-profit organization that coordinates the development of the Unicode standard, including emoji
  • Roboto: The standard typeface on Android
  • Eng: shorthand for “engineering”
  • Holo: The design system released with Android 3 and 4, which directly preceded the creation of Material Design
  • IC: Individual Contributor, a non-management member of a team

Rachel Been is a San Francisco-based Creative Director currently working on Material Design. Initially hired to be Google Play’s first Art Director, Rachel now works across multiple product teams to implement and evolve the Material Design system.

 

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