Google Chicago opened its West Loop headquarters in 2015 and wanted to establish a connection with its Chicago employees in an authentic way. Banner was tasked with creating concepts for the 42-screen installation in the Google Lobby that spanned video games, geometric curiosities and animated street art.
Banner’s first awarded project from Google reimagined Chicago’s neighborhoods through the colorful lens of retro 8-bit / 16-bit video games–but we went a step further by pushing pixel art into the third-dimension with voxels (volumetric pixels). The result was four separate animated segments focusing on different parts of the city (north, south, west and downtown) each highlighting their urban idiosyncrasies with heaps of easter eggs to uncover for locals and retro game lovers.
Video game pixel art by-definition has its limits because it means working with a limited resolution. But with limits comes inspiration: visualizing the profile of a city as unique as Chicago presented a fun challenge–forcing our designers and artists to identify the most salient features in signature structures to be instantly recognizable to audiences. To do so, Banner developed a process of working backward from high resolution 3D models and scaling their detail down within a 3D cubic grid.
The best part of developing for over 167 billion pixels? Lots of space to drop in secrets and references. Completed in 2016, our Voxel installation is still running and available for the public to see at their West Town headquarters.
In 2017, Google awarded Banner its second project. This time we wanted to use real-world moving imagery of Chicago and insert colorful, geometric animations inspired by Google’s Material Design philosophy. But, because no video camera has a resolution large enough for such a display, Banner got creative and used time-lapse photography to enable us to capture as much detail as possible while giving viewers a chance to see the city in an accelerated format.
By leveraging the much larger resolution that can be collected by DSLR camera image (22.3 Megapixels) than HD video cameras (2.1 megapixels), Banner was able to capture imagery that could span across multiple panels on Google’s wall installation.
Google’s Material Design straddles a line between playful and logical (which is so very Google)–our integration of inspired animations served as a metaphor for Google’s new headquarters revitalizing the city’s west side.
Banner unveiled its latest creation for the lobby wall in 2019, a living street art canvas featuring the work of local street artists Penny Pinch and Elloo. Banner digitized and animated the artist’s work to contrast Elloo’s fairy tale monster universe with the cynical Chicago-based character of Penny Pinch. This video installation included a variety of character animation techniques used on the hundreds of characters that populate the 42 screens.
Partnering with Google has been an excellent experience for Banner–affording us the opportunity to push technical limits while making something personal that we've poured our hearts into. Whatever comes next, it certainly will be big.