The designer behind Google+ leaves Facebook for startup Intercom

Well-known designer Paul Adams, who played an integral role in designing Google+ (s goog) and then went on to Facebook (s fb), plans to announce on Friday that he is leaving Facebook and joining business collaboration startup Intercom as head of product design. Adams has been advising Intercom for about 9 months, and is leaving Facebook after just over two years.

In an interview this week Adams told me that he will be taking inspiration from some of his design work with Google+ and the Google’s circles concept while building product at Intercom. “Humans want to form groups. We don’t want to show everything to everybody — that’s not how human beings are hard wired,” said Adams. With Google+ and circles, Adams said his team was attempting to solve that grouping issue in order to make it easier to talk within various social groups that users wanted to connect with.


“The tricky thing to get right is that there’s a lot of effort involved with adding people to groups. That problem still exists; it’s not a solved problem yet,” said Adams. Companies like group messaging app Snapchat and photo sharing app Path are working on easier ways to solve these grouping constraints, he said.

Intercom has built tools that enable businesses to connect with their customers. An Intercom customer can use the service to see the behavior of their online customers and message them about customer service issues and new offers. Like with Google circles, Intercom can segment customers into various types — for example, customers that are using certain features, or customers that bought items in a certain time period — and then message those segmented groups. “It gives companies insights into specific user patterns in their product,” explained Adams, adding “I think it’ll be huge.” GitHub is a beta customer.

Physical Facebook Like button

Intercom has around 20 employees and was incubated by 500 Startups. A little over a year ago the company raised a seed round from 500 Startups, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Huddle founder Andy McLoughlin, Dan Martell and Digital Garage. The company was founded by Irish co-founders Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett, who previously built startup Exceptional.

Adams is the latest designer to leave Facebook. The social network giant has been hard at work building up its design talent, bringing in key designers like Nicholas Felton, Ben Blumenfeld, Mike Matas, and Nate Bolt. Facebook has both acqui-hired and hired rockstar designers.

But it hasn’t always been easy to keep those designers. Felton was hired back in April 2011, but he left after about two years: about the same stint that Paul Adams just did. After five years at Facebook, designer Ben Blumenfeld recently left for the Design Fund.

It seems like there’s only so long that a young ambitious designer wants to remain part of the machine that is Facebook.

GigaOM will highlight the web’s rockstar designers at our third annual RoadMap conference in November in San Francisco. Tickets will go on sale later this Summer, but to learn more about the event, and get access to the first tickets, go here.