Google on why the controversial Workspace rebrand was worth it

Google was criticized when it rebranded G Suite to Workspace this fall. But the redesign marked a strategic move for Google — and a bet that remote working is here to stay.

When Google rebranded its G Suite of productivity apps in October under the Google Workspace suite, the criticism was real.

Tools that 2.6 billion users know and love, from Gmail and Google Meet to Docs and Sheets, were given new logos to fit more uniformly within a cohesive virtual work offering. 

Like with any tech rebrand (see: Airbnb, Slack, every Facebook redesign ever), some users found the changes to be confusing. In Google’s case, they felt the new Workspace logos lacked continuity and were difficult to tell apart on a crowded browser tab.

So why rebrand Google’s famous productivity apps at all? 

The goal was to convey a strategy to more closely integrate Workplace’s products into a cohesive offering, said Google Workspace VP Kelly Waldher, who joined in April to oversee marketing for Workspace. 

As remote work becomes the norm, tech giants including Facebook and Microsoft are capitalizing on the shift. Google has all of the tools to compete in the remote work arena, but needs to pull together a more cohesive offering — and tell a more consistent story. 

As with anything at Google, the redesign was created with vigorous user testing and feedback. Google found that as people spent more time working remotely, they were overwhelmed by the number of remote work tools, which often operate as a bunch of point solutions rather than a cohesive offering. For example, users had to move out of Gmail to start a video chat, or navigate to drive to start a new doc or a sheet. 

“The question became, how can we better solve the needs of our users by bringing these solutions much closer together?” Waldher said.

The redesign was meant to visually convey this strategy. Each logo uses Google's four flagship colors — green, yellow, blue and red — to portray consistency while squarely positioning the apps under the Google brand. 

Behind the logos, Google has been integrating Workspace products more closely. In June, Google made it easier to navigate to Meet through the Gmail interface. Going forward, it plans to integrate Workspace even further, for example allowing users to launch a video chat in Meet directly while collaborating on a Doc. 

Waldher described the strategy as a “greater blurring between apps,” which all sit within Google Cloud, as more remote working becomes the norm. But its ambitions for Workspace extend beyond the business world and into the classroom, where its products are starting to become integral to remote education as well.

“There will be more flexibility,” Waldher siad. “The hybrid environment plays well with Workspace.”

Google is measuring the success of the rebrand over time, running awareness studies and hopefully seeing that flow through to revenue. Despite the immediate backlash, which Google expected to some extent, the redesign was worth it, because it tells the story of Google’s strategy visually — both to consumers and employees, Walder said. 

“When I think of G Suite, I think of a group of apps, whereas Workspace is supposed to be a singular, consolidated thing,” he said. 

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