Patrick Keenan

Patrick Keenan works as a User Experience Designer at Google. His days are filled with a bunch of different things from helping frame research, to figuring out the right flow within product experience, to pushing pixels, to tweaking CSS. “Everyone at Google is working to make our products better, and my contribution to that is helping drive empathy for the typical person using our products,” said Keenan.

Patrick Keenan is speaking about "Modern Tools for Moving from Pixels to Prototype to Production" at our upcoming front-end development event Web Unleashed 2015 this fall, so we caught up with him to find out a bit more about him, what he does, and what you can look forward to hearing about at the main event.

What’s your favorite part?

I joined Google because of the reach and breadth of the products we make. However, I figured that level of scale would trade-off against a bigger company attitude. I’m astounded every day how much of an impact smaller groups can have at the company. Most great ideas at Google have come from an initial demo whipped up by a couple clever folks. There’s definitely freedom to explore concepts and think bigger, so that responsibility is thrilling.

On the design side of things, I signed up right when Material design was in its final stages of release. Using the new language is hugely empowering. Material Design takes the foundations I learned in graphic design school and augments them with the latest thinking in terms of responsive form factors, motion, and digital design. It’s a great starting point as a design language, so it makes it easy to get started on a product concept or improve an existing flow.

Finally, the breadth, as I mentioned before, is what keeps me interested day-to-day. There’s few companies out there innovating in virtual reality, automated transportation, developer tools, mobile devices, machine learning, mapping tech, well, you get the point. Being part of that is awesome.

What are you working on?

I work on a product called Keep. If you have android you probably know it, if you’re on iOS, probably not. The team prides itself on the fact that users love it. We credit that to its simplicity and ability to sync across devices. We’re working hard to improve the feature set without bloating the product that seems like the eternal struggle in any product actually. Everyone takes notes; everyone has a leaky memory, so empathy for our users is not hard to conjure.

In the off hours, I design experiences in the real world. Currently, I’m working with my wife on an Escape Game in Toronto. It may seem strange to pay to get locked in a room for an hour, but when you experience it, you’ll understand the appeal. With so much technology around us, mediating our interactions, it’s like a breath of fresh air to have to put together pieces from the environment, and truly experience an adventure.

Who inspires you?

I draw my inspiration from tech trends, design principles, and creative cities. Probably the daily feeds respectively are hacker news, the Google design site, and walking around San Francisco.

A few other sources:

  • hacker news
  • typography / tufte
  • vr tech / cardboard
  • popups / urban innovation

What book should every designer read?

The classics for me are: The Elements of Typographic Style, The Design of Everyday Things, About Face, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. To be honest, unfortunately, I’ve been reading books less, and articles a bit. Some newer books I’d recommend are Value Proposition Design (Alex & Alan have made business models really accessible to creative folks), and The Best Interface is No Interface (Golden has done a great job in questioning our role as designers of new tech).

Why should people come to your session at Web Unleashed?

My mantra is: get things out quick as close to real as possible, then do that as many times as possible. With new tools I think we can jump from low to high fidelity much faster, which means we should do it more frequently. I’ll be going through Sketch and Framer Studio, two tools I use to move fast. But I’ll also talk about how one might use those in the design process to get the right design before getting the design right. I think there’s a new role emerging that is part developer and part designer, that’s the exciting bit, the tools are just examples of that.

One fun question: what was your favourite cartoon as a kid?

I used to stay up with my siblings and watch Raccoons. If you’re not from Canada you probably have no idea what it is. I didn’t realize that until I started working in SF. It’s rare for Canadian talent to take the world stage, and I’d like to see that more. Granted, as a kid, I just liked the show.

You can find Patrick Keenan on Twitter and GitHub.

Want to meet Patrick Keenan in person? Save $100 on tickets with code 'keenan'