Google acquires design firm Gecko Design for its X research lab

John Maeda , President, Rhode Island School of Design, Roadmap 2013

Google is acquiring Bay Area product design firm Gecko Design to work within its Google X research lab, Bloomberg reported Friday, and the company also confirmed the news on its website. Gecko, founded in the mid-1990s, has built a business around developing products, both hardware and software, for tech clients like Fitbit, HP, Dell, and the One Laptop Per Child Project.

Tech companies are putting a high value on design these days. Google, Facebook, Samsung, and even IBM and GE are investing in design divisions, amassing design talent and yes, even buying up entire design firms. At the same time, entrepreneurs are launching design-driven startups, and VCs are building design-focused teams, too.

We’re highlighting this growing interest in tech design at our Roadmap conference in November in San Francisco — speakers include Fuseproject founder Yves Béhar, Google’s VP Design, Android, Matias Duarte, and Kleiner Perkins Design Partner John Maeda.

Fitbit One black burgundy side view

The valuation on tech design has never been higher. Just last month word broke that Béhar is selling a 75 percent stake in fuseproject to Chinese marketing group BlueFocus for a reported $46.7 million in cash. One of the biggest pieces of news to come from the Valley this year was Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of design-driven connected device maker Nest, led by former Apple superstar designer Tony Fadell.

Design is so important to tech companies these days because as devices become increasingly connected, complex and data-rich, they’re also being sold to an even wider, more mainstream, audience. And as the underlying connectivity, chip and infrastructure layer of products are becoming commodities, the value of the tech product is shifting to the design, and the crafted experience that the user has with the device or service.

Moderated by: Om Malik — Founder, Gigaom Speaker: Tony Fadell — Founder and CEO, Nest Labs

Moderated by:<br />Om Malik — Founder, Gigaom<br />Speaker:<br />Tony Fadell — Founder and CEO, Nest Labs

It’s something that Apple knew early on, and now the world’s biggest tech companies are following suit. Google introduced a new interface design language earlier this year called Material Design, led by Duarte. If you come to Roadmap, you can hear from Duarte and learn all about the latest trends in tech design.

Gecko Design is being integrated into Google’s research lab Google X, so it’s not entirely clear what Google will be using the team for. Gecko President and Owner Jacques Gagne says on their website:

This is an incredible opportunity for everyone at Gecko. We are very excited and honored to join Google (x) and work on a variety of cutting edge products.

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