Google’s line of intelligent home speakers have provided a refreshing set of design ideas to the gadget industry in the last couple of years. Pictured above is my Google Home Mini in the ‘Limited Edition Coral’ color. I consider this very good design. It features no dials, buttons, screens, or any other typical design features of recent tech. It does have a soft cloth top atop a smooth plastic base and not much else. It looks like some decorative ornament you would see in a pre-furnished apartment. This is likely what Google intended when designing this product – a piece of tech that won’t get hidden like all the other black and silver boxes with dials, buttons, and screens.
The design elements you can’t see include two touch sensitive zones on either side, a decent speaker, a set of microphones, four lights, a mute switch, a power cord, and most importantly, a wireless internet connection . These all serve the device’s purpose of being an intelligent speaker and personal assistant. In comparison to the technology designs featured Norman reading, the Home Mini has considerably less design elements.
Less design elements does not mean less features, however. The Home Mini will sit quietly until it hears ‘Hey Google’ and it will light up and wait for a question or instruction such as ‘Set a 5 minute timer’ or ‘Play some music’. My main use case is asking ‘Turn on the lights’ which turns on my connected smart bulbs in a nearby lamp. The functionality doesn’t require the physical interaction people are generally used to which opens new possibilities for the design.
I believe this product is an excellent example of good design. The Google Home Mini is meant to be integrated into the home and accomplishes that very gracefully. The fun colors, soft materials and minimalist design make this a pleasant addition to any space. Its non-relation to existing tech design is refreshing and its interesting to see where the direction of modern design is heading.
This design satisfies the characteristics of enargeia with its pleasant colors and shape. It literally conveys invisible significance through visual depiction. When recognized, someone would understand that you can speak to the Home Mini and it will respond ‘invisibly’ through sound. Additionally, it gives the viewer pleasure to look at. Its a pleasing design and, as discussed earlier, its goal is to fit nicely into a home which I believe it does. I think it also evokes a sense of wonder since the interaction is so conversational and exciting to use.