Syyn Labs's League of Extraordinary Nerds

Chuck Salter of Fast Company profiled our friends at Syyn Labs in Los Angeles. They create whimsical machines and videos for OK GO, Google (like the one above), Disney and other clients.


Syyn's first official project was to help build the complex series of chain reactions that performed simple tasks — known as a Rube Goldberg machine after the legendary cartoonist who devised the concept — at the heart of indie rock band OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" video. After it became a viral hit in the spring of 2010 (20 million views and counting on YouTube. Check it out — again. I'll wait), corporate America came calling. Everyone from Google to Sears has tapped Syyn to build something that inspires wonder, gets their brand noticed, and is infused with the kind of unbridled joy that tends to get squashed out at most companies.

Syyn is discovering that the playfulness game can be a tough racket. Most clients just want what worked for the last guy, and [Adam] Sadowsky, Syyn's president and sole full-time employee, insists, "We're not a Rube Goldberg company." These guys can make a car-battery commercial beguiling, but it may take some beer and an all-nighter in the desert to do it. And clients like Sears … well, that's not how Craftsman tools get made. Can these nerds transform their art collaborative into a true business without losing its mischievous, anarchic spirit? It would be their most audacious project yet.

(Photograph by Angela Boatwright)

Syyn Labs's League of Extraordinary Nerds