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MIT Alumni News: Profile

Google UX designer puts humans first

Laura C. Martini ’08

Laura Martini
QAISER SHAHAN

How can charts be made accessible to blind people? Is the latest mobile app navigable? How can one product serve both casual users and global enterprises? Laura C. Martini ’08 grapples with such questions daily as the user experience (UX) design leader for Google Analytics, a platform for tracking website traffic. Her goal, she says, is “to make things better for humans.”

UX design was not an established field when Martini was in college, but she says MIT prepared her well for her job, which involves coordinating the work of engineers and designers to ensure smooth workflows for the platform’s customers. “We’re thinking about the bigger picture,” she says—helping users accomplish their goals in blissful ignorance of how pieces are coming together on the back end.

Good design is about much more than what something looks like, Martini explains: “Part of the experience is what you see on the screen, but there’s a lot that underlies that. You have to be very intentional about how to design tools so that engineering can build and maintain them.”

Martini was in high school when she first set her sights on a design career, inspired by watching her parents’ home renovation come to life from an architect’s drawings. Never particularly good at art, she decided to approach design from the technical side—creating her own design-themed major at MIT under the umbrella of mechanical engineering. 

She learned design principles at the MIT Media Lab, where she conducted research under Professor John Maeda ’89, SM ’89 (later president of the Rhode Island School of Design). And she minored in anthropology, inspired by classes with Heather Paxson, then a lecturer and now associate dean for faculty at the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Anthropology taught Martini to understand human behavior and notice the difference, for example, between what people say and what they do. “Having that background and framework is very useful,” she says.

After graduating, Martini worked in hardware design at Apple and at the design consulting firm IDEO before earning her master’s in product design from Stanford in 2011. She then joined a genetic-testing startup, working her way up to director of product design before joining Google in 2017.

These days, Martini says, she’s enjoying the opportunity to work at a company where she can design products used by people across the world in a rapidly evolving field—which is precisely why she loves her job. “There is so much to learn, and it keeps changing.” 

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