December 03, 2018

Five Questions with Ivy Ross: Google’s VP of Design for Hardware

Ivy Ross, currently the Vice President of Design for the Hardware Product Area at Google, has held executive positions spanning from Head of Product Design and Development to CMO and presidencies with several companies, including Calvin Klein, Swatch, Coach, Mattel, Bausch & Lomb, and Gap. A renowned artist, her innovative metal work in jewelry is in the permanent collections of 12 international museums.

In 2017, Ivy and her team at Google launched a family of consumer hardware products ranging from smartphones to smart speakers. Their efforts were rewarded with 45 different design awards, and Google was named the “Best Design Company” by Fast Company in 2018.

We’ll learn more about Ivy’s passion for combining art and science to make magic happen (and bring great ideas and brands to life) when she joins us as a speaker at the 2019 In/Visible Talks conference. Below, she gives us insights into the sources of her own creative inspiration and processes.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“I grew up with it. My dad was an industrial designer and worked for Raymond Loewy. He taught me how to see beyond what things appear to be. Starting when I was around five years old, he would point to something and we would talk about its qualities and construction. Then we would think about everything else in the world that could be constructed that way.

“I developed my sense of imagination and ability to be in the flow state at a very early age. My dad designed the house I grew up in. Its design and use of materials were so ahead of its time, that Andy Warhol featured it in one of his movies to represent a futuristic house. So, as you can see, there was no escaping. My life was a creative process, and I am grateful for it.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“Nature inspires me. It is the most creative designer I know. It is pure aesthetics: smell, light, color, shape, texture, and, of course, patterns everywhere!”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“Right out of college, I became an artist/designer winning many awards, getting my work accepted into museums around the world, and understanding deeply how creativity works and the conditions under which it thrives. My greatest creative challenge happened when I entered the corporate world to run design and product development teams. I was shocked to see how those areas were set up and run, which was entirely contradictory to how I believed creativity actually happens. I took that challenge on and slowly but surely changed the place and processes. What started out as a huge challenge became one of the things I become known for, as other large companies started calling me to help make their teams more creative. Ninety percent of the time there was nothing wrong with the team; it was a lack of setting up the container right within which creativity can happen.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“When I was a toddler, I would crawl into my dad’s office. He had the coolest materials, and I could play with them. I have never stopped having ideas and manifesting them with my hands.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

“Dr. Seuss! I love how he embedded extremely important life lessons within such fun visuals and language. I loved his books as a kid, and I still love his books and messages as an adult. I realize that I look at life through a playful lens because of him, which I find very helpful.”

BONUS ROUND: What’s your favorite digital or nondigital tool?

“A set of tuning forks, one in the note of C and the other in G. They mimic the sound of the inner core of the earth. I pull out this tool, strike the forks on a rubber puck to create the sound and vibration, then hold each fork to each of my ears at the same time. This immediately grounds me and takes me to a relaxed state. It comes in handy when there is much to be done, which is pretty much every day.”