It may seem ironic that one of the world’s largest and most influential technology companies has set up shop in New York City’s Chelsea with a free community venue characterized by analog design. Yet the Grow with Google Learning Center – envisioned to provide the community with free training, tools, and events to help individuals grow their skills, careers, or businesses – is intentionally and strategically low-key in its hi-tech aims.
“Our intention is to create a relatable, comfortable environment filled with unique experiences that surprise and delight,” says Doss Freel of brand experience agency Jack Morton Worldwide, “Grow with Google” Designer and Project Manager.
Functionality and simplistic forms fill the foundations of the learning center’s welcoming atmosphere, one anchored by an enormous retro-styled, Oat Foundry split flap display programmed to greet visitors in the lobby with the clickety-clack mechanical movement, informing all who enter about class schedules and event updates, and intermittently present graphics of New York icons and iterations of the Google logo.
An old school classroom vibe permeates into the heart of the center, with identifiable furnishings and decorative choices sourced from years before apps and smartphones, easing all who enter into communal areas where technology assumes a secondary role to the act of learning. Natural light and street-facing windows also aid in reducing an overemphasis upon technology, setting the stage for interaction and inquiry.
“As you move deeper into the space, there is a new element of technology driving physical presence, as simple as foldable doors and tables,” Freel commented. “Technology, in its purest form, gives us more opportunity to achieve our goals. This space proves that tech helps us to achieve peak function, while being comfortable and quite beautiful.”
The Grow with Google Center is located on the ground floor of Google’s office on 8th Avenue between 15th and 16th streets in Chelsea. Monday through Saturday, learning center staff and Google volunteers are on-site throughout the center’s three classrooms offering workshops, training, and one-on-one coaching. Additionally, learners can interact with “story nooks” which display videos highlighting local business success stories or modular carts with built in monitors for demos of some of Google’s tools and programs for small businesses, job seekers and students.