Even though Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters has an unmistakable high-tech, Silicon Valley vibe, Google’s trademark playfulness can be found at all its offices. The challenge with its new Madison, WI office was to identify a visual theme that instantly evoked, “Wisconsin,” while still being surprising and original enough to attract the University of Wisconsin’s brightest and best technology software engineers.
Google drew its Wisconsin inspiration from the building it chose for its Madison office – an old International Harvester factory. The office itself would playfully celebrate Wisconsin's agriculture heritage while embracing its digital future. The new design retained as much of the original building as possible. The original factory windows were transformed into conference room walls. The old freight elevator doors became sliding panels that could be positioned to provide privacy. Even an old International Harvester tractor cab was returned to the space to become a phone booth. A custom-designed, two-tone carpet featured a wave of green and blue to depict the shoreline of Lake Monona, visible through the office windows. The final, playful touch arrived in the form of the Google logo, made by a local artist from old farm implements. Within the five months between Kahler Slater's visioning session and opening day, the space was transformed from the old factory to a bright, fresh, funky space equipped to handle the technological demands of the Google staff.