Discovering Google Squared

It’s March 2012. It’s early, and I’m slumped in one of those uncomfortable conference room chairs in a crappy hotel function room, somewhere in London’s West End. I need coffee and there isn’t any. Did I mention this chair sucks? I joined the advertising industry three months prior, after convincing a rapidly growing Central London Media agency that it was a good idea to hire a 17-year-old with little formal education to work on their accounts. So far, so good. 

I’m here because I’m attending one of the many grad days I’m required to go to over the next 12 months. And that’s fine, because despite the uncomfortable chairs and the crappy function rooms, the grad days themselves are pretty great, primarily because I get a look inside some of the world’s greatest media companies and get to meet a ton of people like me; naive, curious young people who have no real idea where they’re heading and find the chairs just as buttock-destroying as I do. Buttock-destroying. I’m writing that one down.

Anyway, I’ll get to the point. Serendipity is a charmingly old-fashioned word, like something out of Mary Poppins. It’s also awesome when it happens, because by definition it precludes something pleasant and unexpected. This time, it involved our hosts-for-the-day chucking me into a group with a few young ladies (sounds great already, doesn’t it?) who ended up telling me about themselves. In doing so, they mentioned a new educational programme they just joined called Google Squared.

As part of their agencies grad scheme, It involved leaving their company’s office and spending the next three months at Google London’s Victoria office where they would learn all the latest skills and methods needed to be successful in the industry, all-while meeting advertising legends like John Hegarty and not sitting in crappy chairs all day long. Naturally my ears perked up, but I made an effect to act cool and uninterested. I hope I pulled it off.

I got home that evening and with the determination of Liam Neeson in Taken (the first movie, obviously) I started researching the programme. This was difficult, because the results page was littered with information on the old Labs project of the same name. Eventually, I found a sparse and probably deliberately vague registration page buried about 10 paths under Google’s domain. To cut a long story short, I never managed to get a place on the programme, but I kept a close eye on it.

Fast forward to June 2013. It’s Sunday, it’s almost midnight and I’m attacking another side-project that’ll never see the light of day. In another serendipitous moment, I remembered Google Squared. I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall. That usually means I’ll completely forget about it and leave the post-it note to curl up on the wall, covered in dust and what I assume are skin flakes (apparently that’s what most of the ‘dust’ in our homes is), but not this time. This time, I started working on something the next evening. It was a conceptual rebrand of the programme – one that I felt captured my initial excitement about it and how I imagined it would look and feel. You can see it here.

Not long after being published it hit the front pages of Hacker News, Designer News and a bunch of other aggregators and blogs. That was fun, but what was even more fun was meeting the team behind Squared at Google London. We had lunch in their cafeteria. Spaghetti was a bad choice for a meeting. Anyway, eventually I convinced them to let me rebrand Squared for real. For the past six months, we’ve been working together to bring to life a new vision for the future of the programme, and it’s far better than what I originally came up with. We announced it today.

The project is ongoing, so I look forward to sharing the whole thing with you soon. For now, here’s a sneak peek:

Google Squared Rebrand Before & After

That chair sucked, by the way.

Update: You can now find the full case study here.