“Collaborative Design” is critical for organizations that might have many separate “parts” functioning as one unified experience from the perspective of a user.
An interesting point – a company with extensive internal teams (such as Google and Adobe) is wise to invite an outside consultancy to create a “tool set” for the internal teams to use. The guide may not be followed religiously throughout all tools and experiences, but main elements of the too set should be uniform.
Google does not dictate design elements from a central point of view, however, Google managed to make the design “relatively consistent and very pretty.”
Google redesign addressed the problem of lack of consistency among Google properties. Prior to the redesign, the only consistent element was the Google logo. The new design introduced the consistency, reinforced simplicity and defined the main elements across all Google sites. Red – main action. It is interesting to see that in some cases it might be a button (Gmail) or just an underlined button (search).
Anything related to search was blue. Anything related to sharing or social were green. All additional elements of the page were grey, what clearly reinforces the simplicity of the design.
Not all elements are used in exactly the same manner throughout the Google sites and applications. However, the main structure is the same.
An quite extensive account of the redesign gives additional insight into the process.
Another case study – creation of common elements of Adobe Touch apps – solved similar problem. Adobe planned to create a series of apps based on its popular Adobe ideas. The apps needed to have a degree of similarity to allow a user comfortable use of common elements in all apps. A set of elements have been created (common tools, treatment, functionality) to allow developers of individual apps to concentrate on the specific app rather than basic elements of the interface.
On designer worked on high-level pieces and provided the framework for the app development.
Interesting – this approach need to be generic enough and flexible enough not to restrict progress and learning, but from another side assure reasonable consistency. I am hoping the industry succeeds in finding the right mix – as the rest of us – users – will be suffering if the industry won’t find the magic solution 😉