Facebook’s Analog Research Lab: The Slogan Factory Where Techies Get Tactile | HuffPost
These printed books are the product of Facebook’s Analog Research Lab, the nerve center for the internal evangelism that shapes the company’s soul and a playground where Facebook’s employees can get offline and get messy with silkscreens, saws and soldering tools. Wired dubbed it Facebook’s “secret propaganda arm.”
Indeed, though the lab is partially intended as an outlet for the online-obsessed to work with their hands, its main function is churning out posters, booklets, T-shirts and other objects that help translate physical space into a manifestation of company culture.
This analog antidote to the social network’s digital world underscores Facebook’s effort to avoid an identity crisis as it grows, and ensure its employees — whether there are 10 or 10,000 of them— are well-versed in its mission and values.
“When companies grow you have bureaucracy and politics and stuff like that start to creep in and become norm,” said Facebook designer Ben Barry, the custodian and father of the Analog Research Lab, who worked at a screen printing design firm in Austin, Texas, before joining Facebook in 2008. “I see the Analog Research Lab as trying to push that back and stay true to the startup culture, hacker culture, that made Facebook successful all along ... The book especially is an attempt to really instill those values across our organization.”
Even within Facebook, which built a billion-user business by fostering digital correspondence via likes, pokes and status updates, the most important messages are still shared physically, not digitally, and must be printed, not typed.
“By committing stuff to a physical form, you’re elevating its importance,” Barry notes. “So much of important information is distributed online and it’s much more efficient to do that. But when you make a book or make a poster, it’s a strong signal that this idea is worth paying attention to.”
Many of the posters follow the same basic design, one that Barry cribbed from a 1920s-era anti-war poster created by the National Council for Reduction of Armaments. Short sayings like “”Good design is good business,” “Stay focused and keep shipping” and “Move fast and break things” are emblazoned in bright red, all-caps lettering. The slogans on some signs, like “Done is better than perfect,” are borrowed from famous phrases Berry stumbled across and wrote down in his journal a decade ago.