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Q&A with Sebastien Gabriel

Senior designer for Google Chrome

I'm Sebastien Gabriel, Senior designer for Google Chrome. I work on the visual consistency of Chrome, on every platform it's deployed on.

How did you get started in design? 

I started design in France during my studies, after my Baccalaureat (equivalent of GED), I knew I wanted to be in tech but I wasn't sure if either code or design was for me.

I started a pretty generalist education for two years. Teaching me things from HTML/javascript to design and film-making. During these two years, I really shined as a designer, not so much as a developer so I started to really focus on design.

The following three years, I joined a management school specialized in multimedia. I realized after a year that it wasn't really for me but I stayed there anyway.  As I explained more in detail in my "How I joined Google" article, I discovered what I really wanted to do by doing things I didn't like. The school offered a very interesting alternate program where you spend half a year at school and the other half working in a company, for real clients and real bosses. This taught me a lot. I specialized even more into design because that's what came naturally to me. I became self-taught.

After I got my degree, I stayed at the company I was alternating with. It was a really great environment and it allowed me to grow incredibly by giving me a lot of responsibility. I worked with the web agency clients and as I started to get noticed on Dribbble, I brought back freelance work. After a year there, I was noticed by Google and I flew to America.

What are you working on now? 

I'm responsible on the visuals of Chrome on every platforms it's deployed on. I also try and design the specs, guidelines and check consistency of all these instances. It's a very time consuming job as I'm also responsible for creating the Core UI assets.

Chrome updates and moves fast. It requires a deep understanding of how the product work and the process can be very messy sometimes.

I think the key to my work and what drives a lot of decisions is trying to keep a general view of the product, take a step back and try to figure out how Chrome should feel everywhere.

I'm very independent in my work which has its benefit and flows when you work in a team environment. You work fast but you do not communicate enough. As my team grew, my process as well and I'm now focusing on communicating design guidance better.

What tools and software do you use for your work? 

Chrome, obviously, and Sketch. I also use the Creative Suite but I tend to try to rely exclusively on Sketch as it caters to my specific needs of UI designer.

What is your ideal work environment?

I'm not a fan of completely open space, I'm easily distracted and tend to prefer calm and silence as well as uninterrupted work sessions. I really like to work with my teammates. My freelance and (very) small company background tends to make me prefer very small teams. When your project/feature involves more than 5 designers (not including the dev team) it starts to get messy in my opinion.

Where are your favorite places for art?

It's a hard question for me. The first thing that comes to mind is the 3 hours I spent at a Ghibli exhibition in Paris 2 months ago. Paris in general is extremely stimulating for me and each time I come back I'm just overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do there. And I'm not saying that because I was born there.

Who are the designers, artists you admire most?

I'm extremely bad with names. As for the previous question, it's super hard for me to put names on what/who inspires me and I see a lot of incredible things out there.

When it comes to our industry, Julie Zhuo is someone that consistently writes things I totally agree with but can never manage to write down properly or as elegantly as she does.

Other people would be Glen Murphy, Chrome design lead and Nicholas Jitkoff who started Material design. The former is a really impressive design manager and the latter is Google design driving force. He has a great ability to rally designers behind him and get things done while being really humble about it.