Even if you’ve never heard of Syyn Labs, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of their creations. The collective helped build the Rube Goldberg Machine for OK Go’s 2010 “This Too Shall Pass” music video, which quickly became a viral sensation. At that time, Syyn Labs was what founder Doug Campbell called a mere “hobby club” for roboticists, electrical engineers, chefs, computer programmers, and at least one “pirate.” Or, to invoke what’s become a mantra among the Syyn Labs team, “a drinking club with an art problem.”
After the success of that impressive contraption, Syyn Labs restyled itself as a for-profit business orchestrating imaginative stunts and inventions for its clients. “We love inventing things,” head engineer Eric Gradman says. “And it turns out there are people willing to pay for inventiveness and creativity.”
Over the past two years, Syyn Labs has built a bungee-jumping car for Chevy, an organ made out of cars for DieHard batteries, and another Rube Goldberg machine (albeit with more fire) to promote Google’s Science Fair. But despite its corporate clients, the collective hasn’t compromised the principles of unbridled creativity on which Syyn Labs was founded. In fact, that’s exactly what the clients respond to most, says Campbell.
“When we started working for clients who saw that energy that we had, felt that authenticity of what we were excited by, what we were passionate about–that’s what they really wanted to hire us for. But what was cool was that we could still continue doing what we liked. And in fact, at that level, often the scale was much greater and we could even have more fun.”