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Few executives have the profoundly spiritual presence of Ivy Ross, who more than five years ago joined Google as a vice president, helping to lead the launch of the second edition of Glass at Google X and for the past three years overseeing design for its hardware division. When Ross enters a room, there’s a magical sort of glow around her. The energy she gives off—as was evident at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, where she was joined by Spencer Bailey onstage in conversation—is contagious. It’s hard not to be charmed by her openness, her enthusiasm, her empathic nature. She is indeed a breath of fresh air within the often hubristic culture of Silicon Valley, and could be seen as a kind of guru—though she would never describe herself as such.

Ross began her career—which has included stints at Calvin Klein, Mattel, Disney, and Gap—as a jewelry designer. And it shows. She’s extremely sensitive to form, color, material, and tactility. She deeply understands the importance of beauty. She believes that energy is embedded in everything, and that it can be felt, positively or negatively, in any object. She’s a shrewd, culturally attuned marketer, too. By the time she was in her mid-20s, she already had jewelry pieces in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Design is in Ross’s blood: She remembers this “incredible curiosity” coming to her at a young age, partly through her father, who worked for the hyper-innovative Raymond Loewy, famous for dreaming up things like Lucky Strike packaging, the Studebaker, various locomotives, and NASA interiors. Ross is someone who throughout life has always trusted her gut, allowing her instincts to lead her through challenging situations, similar to how a drummer might take the reigns and bring a band forward through tricky improvisation. (Perhaps not surprisingly, Ross is also a drummer.)

On this episode of Time Sensitive, Ross and Bailey discuss “design feeling,” as opposed to design thinking, and the role of rhythm in her life and work. She also shares how her spiritual education, from Jungian psychology and sound healing to stone medicine and qigong, has helped fuel her creative work and enliven her corporate career.

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