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How a Google office became a sticky-note art gallery

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At one of Google’s offices, windows have become canvases...for art made from sticky notes. The “pixel art” is not only a way to decompress after a long day of work, but also a way to make the office personal—and a lot of fun, too.

The decorations all started when a neighbor wanted to say hello. A company located across the street used brightly colored sticky notes to spell out a greeting in their windows. Googlers decided to join in on the fun and reply with art of their own. Their initial response was a shyly-assembled team logo, but soon after, a massive pink pixelated pony took shape on the windows of the office.

And they weren’t stopping there. Their office centers around a glass atrium, and they wanted to make their new home a place they could personalize. What started with a handful of Googlers creating their favorite cartoon characters took on a life of its own. Applying the principle of 10x, that a creation should be ten times better than its predecessor, Googlers upped the ante quickly.

A group would construct a pixelated Mario and Luigi, and see Pikachu popping up across the courtyard. Overnight, a colorful unicorn would appear. Soon, the characters from “Doctor Who” and “Mega Man” were presiding over upper floors. For Chrome’s 10th birthday, the local Chrome team assembled a large-scale Chrome logo—and a sidekick dinosaur—that spanned two entire floors.

Jakub Gielzak and Tyler Wagner, early members of the crew of sticky art enthusiasts, say there’s no organized structure to the notes. No team presides over planning, and no one says what can or cannot be posted where and when, as long as Googlers use their best judgment. (And not take too much time from their actual work, of course.)

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But there are some guidelines: Use an outline of black sticky notes to make an image pop. Beware of glass that is frequently exposed to the sun’s glare, because heat can take the “sticky” out of “sticky note.” Keep a strict two-sticky note distance between the art and the floor, because a well-mopped base can be deadly, even to lightsaber-wielding Yoda. And, most importantly, obey the sticky rule of thumb: To prevent curl, pull a sticky note down directly from the stack, instead of to the side or, heaven forbid, up.

Animated GIF of pulling a sticky note off a pad

There are multiple Google offices that embrace windows as canvas. Back in 2015, Googlers in San Francisco once replied to a “hi” in a neighbor’s window with a sticky-note “yo” and a huge QR code which, when scanned, played Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

What’s next for these pixel artists? It’s anyone’s guess. Googlers are often the first to take their own pieces down, in eager anticipation of what someone will make of the available space. Sticky-note art is designed to be temporary and adaptable, just like the stack of notes you keep at your desk.

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