A Google designer explains why it changed one of its most popular products from a black stick to a brightly coloured hockey puck

Earlier this year, Google completely revamped the look and feel of its Chromecast device, the little dongle that users can plug into their TVs to let them stream internet video straight from their computers or phones.

Google Chromecast

“There were a lot of ‘sticks” out there,” design lead for Chromecast, Kristen Beck, told Business Insider during a conversation about what it’s like being one of Google’s only industrial designers (she describers her and her peers as “albino deer”). “If you have a relative who says, ‘Do you have that stick product?’ you have to ask, ‘Which stick?’ We really wanted to do something that you can differentiate in a line-up.”

She’s right. Roku and Amazon both sell streaming sticks (Roku released its product first, then Google, then Amazon). Beck says that her team realised through user research that some consumers would confuse its stick for a USB, and try to put it in locations where it didn’t belong, instead of the HDMI port on their TVs. Plus, it didn’t fit behind some wall-mounted televisions.

Beck knew that she wanted the new design to be simple, approachable, and slightly quirky.

“We wanted to make it more ‘Googley,'” she says.

Hundreds of designs and prototypes later…


… The current design made the cut.

The biggest question Beck gets, she says, is why the company chose to make the Chromecast coloured even though it just lives behind users’ television where they will never see it?

“Our attitude towards that was like, ‘Why not?'” she says. “We thought ‘Let’s create a memorable experience.'”

Plus she adds, people liked being able to select a colour when they gave the $35 Chromecast devices as gifts.

“We’re now the only circular puck in the streaming space,” she says. “Even if you have no idea about the streaming media landscape — if you have no clue about which brands make which ones — you can at least know the difference between a stick and a circle. And that alone will differentiate us.”

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