X: Where Google designs self-driving cars, Glass, and stratospheric Internet balloons

Project Loon's consumer-side antenna — i.e. the thing that bolts onto users' houses to receive an Internet signal from balloons in the stratosphere

Working at Google X is a dream job for makers and designers. It's the "moonshot factory" where the self-driving car, Glass, Project Loon, and other futuristic technologies are being developed. Mason Currey of Core77 got an invitation to visit X and he reported on what he learned there.

"We're looking for unicorns," says Mitchell Heinrich, one of the four X-ers I met in Mountain View about a month ago. Heinrich founded and runs his own group within X called the Design Kitchen, which acts as X's in-house fabrication department but is also deeply involved in generating (and killing) new ideas. And what he means by "unicorns" is designers who have the rare ability to excel in both of those roles—as he puts it, "people who have the ability to have the inspiration, the thought, the design, and then are able to carry that out to something that actually works and looks like what they want it to look like."

That may not sound like such a fantastically rare combination of skills, but Heinrich insists that finding people who can do this kind of soup-to-nuts design—come up with brilliant ideas and then actually make them, while also working extremely fast—has been difficult. In other words, the Kitchen has high standards. "I like to think of it as more like a Chez Panisse than an Applebee's," he says.

Unicorns, Mental Athletes, and Caged Animals (with Superpowers): A Core77 Exclusive Interview with the Design Team Behind Google X