Although Google has opened its doors to the press numerous times (including to Android Authority), the company kept one newer building off-limits. Recently, Fast Company had the unique opportunity to be the first member of the press to visit the building in question: the Google Design Lab.
The Google Design Lab is still very new, only opening up its doors to nearly 150 employees last June. This is the place where Googlers will design Made by Google products, such as the Google Home Mini, the Google Pixel 3, and the Google Pixel 3a, among others.
The Design Lab was purposely built to serve as a collaborative space with little restrictions on how employees can interact with each other and product ideas. Since this is Google we’re talking about, there are also some more unconventional aspects to the building, such as a “Human Refueling Station” that acts as kind of a meditation space.
It appears Google design lead Ivy Ross — herself a former jewelry designer — had a significant hand in the design of the building itself. Everything from the floor layout to the finely-tuned lighting of the building is tailor-made for one specific purpose: keeping the creative juices flowing for the various designers on Ross’ team.
As such, you won’t find any cubicles in the Google Design Lab. In fact, you won’t even find any conference rooms. Ross says that the Design Lab is a kind of “sanctuary” and meetings are thus held off-site in other Google buildings. When a designer steps in the Lab, they should have only one thing in mind: creating.
The various rooms throughout the Google Design Lab focus on a particular aspect of a product, such as color, texture, and build materials. Although Google hid certain product ideas and designs away from Fast Company during its visit (using a draped black cloth), there were a few hints as to what future Google products could look or feel like. For example, 3D-printed filaments made from old fishing nets and particleboard made from dead seagrass suggest future Made by Google products could be produced with recycled materials in an effort to go green.
There are also collections of physical items designers find that they think are inspiring in some way. These items get displayed in various rooms organized by color and texture. A full-time librarian keeps everything organized and coded so at any point a designer can locate a product they are looking for.
The very existence of the Google Design Lab is a paradigm shift for the company. Previously, Ross and her team worked out of a literal garage when designing products, as Google didn’t really place enough priority on design. The runaway success of the Google Home line of smart speakers and smart displays are a representation that design is truly important, which is likely why Google built the designers this “sanctuary.”
For more information on the Lab and some more photos, check out Fast Company’s write-up here.
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