Google was the first major company to move from the Loop in Chicago’s city center to Fulton Market, a former warehouse district that is now the most vibrant and thriving area of the city. It was a tremendously forward-thinking move that required Google to create an incredibly dynamic work environment to attract young professionals to this up-and-coming, but not yet established area of the city.
Forcade collaborated with VOA Architects (now Stantec) on all of the environmental graphics for Google’s new 325,000 square foot, six-floor Midwest headquarters as well as the exterior building branding signage.
Working on a Google office comes with immense responsibility. For more than a decade, the organization was at or near the top of Fortune’s Best Company’s to Work For list. This project wasn’t a cookie-cutter corporate interior. Our environmental graphics package needed to live up to Google’s culture of providing an imaginative, creative and collaborative workspace for some of the brightest minds in the world.
Our design idea was to not only connect ambitious young professionals to the culture of Google, but also to the vibe of Chicago. We treated each of the building’s six floors as its own unique Chicago-specific environment, giving employees something new and fun to discover as they ventured throughout the space.
Enormous wall graphics on each floor featured both well-known and hidden gems of Chicago. Our goal was to engage Google employees in a conversation with the city, using everything from movie stills of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Blues Brothers to the city’s most famous icons like the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and Buckingham Fountain.
It was an experiential graphic design approach. At every turn, employees experienced the landmarks, architecture, history, neighborhoods and people that make Chicago one of the most unique and lively places to live and work.
The memorable graphics also served as a practical signage and wayfinding system. They were speakable landmarks for room names and visible floor identifiers from the open central staircase.
This environmental graphics package was an enormous undertaking. It was developed, produced and delivered to the site in just five weeks. That included covering nearly 10,000 square feet of glass and painted surfaces that were both straight and curvilinear complex shapes.
One surface proved to be so challenging that in order to ensure the branding graphics would fit seamlessly, we needed to 3D scan the wall. Withing this tight timeframe, we also negotiated the purchase of all photographic images, both stock and commissioned.
Additionally, Google is very strict about their commitment to making their offices sustainable, so we had to source and test a variety of materials to make the designs not just beautiful, but also as environmentally friendly as possible.
Forcade was challenged with creating an environment for Google that attracted Chicago’s top talent to an area of the city not yet known as a desirable destination. Our vibrant and attractive environmental graphics package played a small part in igniting a cultural and building boom in Fulton Market District that was like no other in recent Chicago history.
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