Google Creative Labs’ Creative Director Ji Lee emailed me the other day to tell me about Chrome Experiments, a new product Google Creative Labs has just launched. Now that I’ve had time to play with the site and many of the experiments, I have to report out that not only is it all good, but there’s also something particularly worthy about creative catalysts such as Chrome Experiments, as I’ll explain.
Chrome is, of course, a new open source web browser from Google. I’m a new tech addict, so when it first came out last year I fired up the old PC (the Mac version is “coming soon” says Ji), and after taking Chrome out for a ride, looking under the hood and kicking the tires, I dig Chrome.
Browsers are quickly becoming the OS of our computing lives. When I first log on early in the morning, I open the browser, work on projects with partners all over the world, email, chat, video conference, review designs and tweak images and documents, and never once leave my browser. It’s the platform for my work and global connectivity. And with Chrome Experiments, Google is extending it as a platform for creativity.
While Ji recommends “Browser Ball” and “Video Puzzle” as experiments to get things going, personally, I’d like to highlight the Monster experiment as a model of the Chrome Experiment’s creative potential. There are other experiments that are more dynamic and vibrant, but as Monster is a demonstration “of what can be done with browser web standards (without Flash)” it provides a window into another key element of creativity that is obsessing me at the moment: the creativity of constraints.
When you begin playing around with Monster, its functionality feels so much like you’re inside a Flash movie, run through the Flash plug-in. But this is straight-up Java, baby – toggle the background colour, rotate it, pan it, get right inside the creative process, with nothing but you, your keyboard, and the given functionality of the browser itself.
There’s a harmony here between experiments such as Monster, and many others within Chrome Experiments, that use only the given functionality of Java and browser standards, and the recent Wired feature Design Under Constraint: How Limits Boost Creativity. From magazine design’s constraints of a fixed page size and its 2D platform, to designing album covers for minuscule display on digital gadgets, across the board, constraints have always been a defining aspect of creativity. Today, however, as the general zeitgeist and the financial collapse turns all thoughts to one of constraints, those creatives who look at constraints, standards and fixed limitations as catalysts for expanding creative dialogue instead of choke points are well placed for a long ride upward through the downward economic cycle.
I recommend spending some time with Chrome Experiments and viewing your browser not only as a functional app, but as a platform for creativity. And for those of you who want to dig a bit deeper into Google’s platform philosophy, I recommend the book What Would Google Do?