Google Lab


What does the future of retail look like?

Google Lab is a speculative experience based retail store that uses parametric design and machine learning to manufacture Google Home devices unique to each customer. In a speculative future where CNC manufacture encourages disposable production and enables mass customization, Google Lab is a concept in opposition to designed obsolescence and the paradox of choice. As Steve Jobs said, “A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” Google Lab is for those who like design, but don’t know what they like until they see it.


Google Lab | The Future of Retail


Experience Design / Environment Design


Louis Elwood Leach, Christopher Rand, Sowmya Lyer


MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts / Guidance from Richard Tyson and James Wynn / Winter 2016


Entering Google Labs, customers are immediately introduced to the stores onsite manufacture. Customers have the opportunity to experience the exhibition-style space unlike traditional retail stores. Every product is manufactured on-site and ondemand with data collected from the user.


In the design center, customers are invited to work with Google to design their own Google Home. Google Labs uses parametric model of the Google Home device. Parameters alter the external form of the device and are set with variables unique to each customer. Google Labs first proposes an initial form to the customers through variables defined by the customers purchase history, search history and social media. Through machine learning, Google Labs would regenerate the form until the customer experience a moment of serendipity and decide the final design. Google Labs allows design that is more suited to the customer than any industrial designed object, more in the vision of the customer than the vision of the artisan, and more individualised than the design of the customer.


Products are manufactures on-site at Google Labs stores distributed across the globe. This allows products to be manufactured at their location of consumption, eliminating the majority of transportation. Parametric designs are defined with variables unique to the customer are manufactured through CNC processes.


Returning customers can update their old devices through regenerating the form a software update for physical objects. By utilizing the raw materials and core components of their old device, customers receive a new device with updated components and a new design. This creates a closed loop recycling system and produces minimal waste.


The process started with researching and experiencing the domain of retail in Soho. The main finding was that contemporary stores are largely experience driven. This is where my team and I focused our ideation. Each week from there, the team developed their ideas to present at the Frog, design and strategy firm. Over the course of 8 weeks, we progressively made the concept more tangible and integrated our research.