Google has been reconsidering its iconic motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” which the company adopted for its 2004 public offering. According to the founders, the company has grown so large and diverse that it has expanded beyond its original mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As a demonstration of its new horizons effort, Google allowed its staff in Budapest, Hungary to design new office space in a very cool aquatic bathhouse theme celebrating the nation’s Cold War triumph.
But some people worry about abandoning the motto, “Don’t be Evil.” (The company has since clarified to the Washington Post that is it only reconsidering its “mission generally,” not its specifically non-evil policy.)
On December 6, 1956, Hungary and the Soviet Union battled in a water polo semi-final match in Melbourne, Australia. The game is often celebrated as perhaps the greatest competition in the history of the Olympic event, and is known as “Blood in the Water.”
About five weeks before the game, Soviet tanks and combat troops invaded Hungary, killed 3,000 local protestors, and reinstalled a puppet government. With the Hungarians under tight control at the Olympics by Communist Party minders, the Hungarian Water Polo players got their chance to claim their independence and retaliate against the Soviet Union in front of a worldwide audience. The Hungarians beat the Soviets 4-0, but the game was stopped one minute early because the players from both teams were so bloody the pool water supposedly turned pink.
The Hungarian capital has been famous for hundreds of years as a spa town in recognition of its 500 artesian springs. Graphasel Design Studio modeled the Budapest central office area around a main conference room table that sits above vinyl flooring that looks like a sparkling pool. The office walls have photos of spectators in the stands cheering on the Hungarian team. There are also pink water polo balls hanging from the ceiling and colorful beach towels that are within easy reach.
To allude to the city’s reputation for therapeutic spas that provide peace and tranquility, there are areas with cool blue and green tones, extensive tilework, plants, and water-like features. A meeting room is modeled after a hall in Hungary’s famous Gellért Baths, a white-tiled sofa comes with its own pool ladder–and, of course, a wood-lined sauna meeting room that is fully equipped with computers.
“We aimed to demonstrate parallelism between sports and the spirit of competition in the world of business,” Graphasel said in a statement on its website. “As the spas are home to both sports swimming pools and outdoor rest areas, it was obvious that each room within the office was devoted to a different topic. Because of the extreme diversity of baths, a sauna and a steam bath, as well as a water polo arena and an outdoor beach are also included in the concept.”
Google has been notorious for its quirky approach to office designs around the world. Some offices feature multi-story slides, picnic tables, koi fish tiles, Marge Simpson wigs, car-wash brushes, surfboards, orange groves, cobble-stone corridors and others consistent with Google says is its theory that “communication landscapes” foster collaborative teamwork.
None of this might seem evil, but every piece of what has been referred to as “insane crap” that Google uses to decorates their offices is aimed at making the brand ooze cool to recruit the young-at-heart wizards of design wizards Google wants to hire.
Google is branching far away from its traditional Internet search engine focus. The company is designing and building Google Fiber, cheap satellite Internet for developing countries, rocketry and self-driving cars. But the Washington Post suggests that with the company wanting to branch out into other industries’ turf, “Google will probably have to be a little evil to incumbents at least some of the time.”
Google already makes most of its money through “pervasive eavesdropping on our behaviors and actions–when we search, use mobile phones and watch YouTube,” according to Jeffrey Chester, who leads the Center for Digital Democracy.
When it comes to Google rebranding, he told the Post, “By changing their motto, they are finally acknowledging in part what they really stand for: They monitor and monetize the lives of people across the globe.”
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