The New Google Fascination With Theming

Well certainly it had to happen some time. Google has started theming their apps.

Gmail_Themes

It’s already been part of iGoogle for a while and I’ll bet we’ll see this appear in Google Calendar soon enough as well. So why the sudden fascination with theming? Why I ask you, why?

Wait, I know this. It’s all based on the theory that if people customize their daily tools, personalize them, it means they’ve made an emotional connection to the software; a connection which makes for loyal users. Microsoft uses the exact same arguments when defending Windows “Aero”, the color-tweakable glass-like substance that surrounds Windows Vista applications.

You’ve seen it when kids put stickers on their toys. It’s a bonding ritual that stems back from whenever. This is mine, here’s my stamp, here’s my pee. Smell it: not yours.

So is this a good thing, Google Theming? Frankly I’m a little disappointed. Certainly it tells me that the architecture behind the scenes is finally of a level of cleanliness where theming is possible without weighing down the system. What I would have liked to see, however, was a Google visual identity first. It’s been discussed for ages: does Google even have one?

Yes, they have their colorful logo, yes they have the white background and black Arial font and bluish contrast color. Then again, Chrome follows some of these rules, but not all, and Analytics is another matter altogether. Ask a freshly baked designer leaving “design 101” design class whether Google has put second thoughts in their designs and the answer will be a fiercely hesitant maybe. You’d think that an organization as big as Google could afford a few designers?