The Wonderful World of Google Doodles
A Cultural Icon
What intrigues, puzzles, teases, remembers, raises awareness, pays tribute, plays games, makes links and ultimately brings a smile to the dreary routine of everyday computer usage?
What started life as a quirky 'out of office' sign put up by the founders during their absence to attend a cultural festival (and to let users know that the site will run despite their absence)?
What can cause a lottery like sudden surge in traffic to an unsuspecting site or a webpage due to linkage to the subject matter at hand?
What is, in short, is a modern cultural icon?
Ladies, Gentlemen and Children I present to you, the wonderful world of the Google Doodles.
We'll trace its origins, variations, relevance and impact and in the course of this will also encounter the various stories it has come to generate since its inception in 1998.
Birth of a LogoClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Birthplace of Google
Always wanting to break new ground, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page created their now omnipresent search engine while studying at Stanford University. The primary idea was to organize the information from searches in a way different from the conventional model of counting search terms. They came up with a Page rank system.
They called this search engine 'Backrub' as it checked backlinks. However, when ambitions grew, they wanted a name that represented their vision of seeking hundreds of millions of users and links. The name 'Google' is a misspelling of the term 'Googol' which in mathematical terms is the number one followed by a hundred zeroes .
Sergey Brin created the first version of the logo using a computerised version of the letters. Later designer Ruth Kedar came on board was responsible for the modern version of the famous logo and its colour scheme.
As you can see from above the logo itself has been through three incarnations to the present one.
Out of Office
In 1998 during the birthing of this nascent organisation Brin and Page wanted to go to the famous Burning man festival. They knew that their search engine was enjoying a steadily rising popularity and were confident that the servers will carry on regardless their absence. In a way of telling the users that they were away at the festival, they playfully incorporated the 'Burning Man' into the second 'o' of the Google logo.
The First ever Google doodle was born:
Logoing where no one has gone before...
Sergey and Larry got such a lot of feedback on their quirky ' burning man' doodle that they decided to do another one that year for Thanksgiving.
The absolute commandment about logo design is not to meddle with a logo and keep changing it. Wise people in marketing consider it a bad move in terms of branding. It is all about creating and maintaining brand identitiy and consistency.
However, Larry and Sergey were never ones to take 'no' for answer. They were more of a 'why not?' guys. Inspired by the public response,they hired external contractors to periodically do a Google doodle, usually celebrating a national festival.
In 2000, then Google intern Dennis Hwang designed a logo for Bastille day that was also a hit. Page and Brin installed Hwang as their chief doodler.
Memorable DaysClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Google doodle grew in popularity associated with the company's meteoric rise and global status. A team of doodlers are employed to brainstorm, sketch and create doodles.
A doodle may be instituted:
- to celebrate birthdays of Artists, scientists, inventors, writers, explorers, leaders and other memorable figures.
- to commemorate a religious festival or a memorable date
- to highlight events within the company- anniversaries, achievements
- to highlight individual countries memorable days and religious festivals
- to highlight cultural phenomenon and trends
- to advertise global sports events like the Olympics, World cup etc.
Since its inception, every year the Google Doodle grows in stature and innovation. Fitting of its global presence, the doodles are tailored to suit the individual countries searchers as well as global themes.
Love Is Missing an 'l' !
Art and Artists
Celebrating classical and modern art blends easily with the ethos of Google Doodles. It allows the team to play with the Google imagery and incorporate artistic themes of world famous creators. Here are some of the examples of artists celebrated by the Google doodles. All images are found and searchable at the Google Doodle museum Doodles.
Here you can find all the Google doodles from the time of origin to present day, arranged chronologically. They also contain fascinating insights and notes on the doodle or the subject at hand.
Every year, the doodles expand their scope into a truly global outlook, celebrating local talent from various countries. Some logos may only have been visible to certain countries while others are used worldwide depending on popularity and wider awareness. Inviting guest designers, artists and animators has also become vogue.
The Doodle team celebrates world famous writers on their anniversaries. Every year the range and scope expands to incorporate notable writers from different parts of the world. Sometimes these are straightforward and sometimes they incorporate the writers famous creations and give clues to their identity.
Mimicking the famous radio broadcast of Orson Welles, the Doodle team created a series of Google doodles of a UFO 'abducting' the 'o' of the Google causing internet speculation. They later revealed it was to celebrate the birthday of HG Wells and his novel 'The War of the Worlds'.
Notable doodles also include an animated version of the submarine 'nautilus' ( 20,000 leagues under the sea ) that could be navigated using the cursor so we could see through the portholes. This was to celebrate the birthday of science fiction writer Jules Verne.
Not forgetting the scientific advancements and the pioneers in science, the team also delivers science themed doodles. This is to celebrate birthdays of scientists and anniversaries of key inventions and discoveries.
Notable doodles include the well known such as Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Gregor Mendel to the relatively obscure Nicolas Steno- father of modern geology, Robert Noyce the inventor of the microchip etc.
Scientific inventions and discoveries such as photography, Flight, X-ray, Daguerrotype, Vitamin C, Laser, Space Flight are all also celebrated.
Google Celebrates SF stalwart Stanislaw Lem's birthday
Interactive and Animated
As the popularity of the doodles became well established, the team gets more and more ambitious. As you can see from the above example, the doodles have started to become mini masterpieces of art and interaction themselves.
Whether it is celebrating the birthday of comedienne Lucille Ball, the wonderful world of Charlie Chaplin or paying tribute to Freddie Mercury, the genius guitar maker Les Paul- new possibilities of animation and interaction have revealed little gems of delight.
Commissioning some talented animators or doing it in house, these short films/animations/games have been a big it among internet users.
Tribute to choreographer Martha Graham
Animator/Designer Ryan Woodward was asked to contribute a short animation as a doodle tribute to ace choreographer Martha Graham. The end result is an amazing piece of art that captures the spirit of dance. This short created a sensation when it was launched and remains one of the firm favourites of the animated doodles.
Tribute to John Lennon
For John Lennon's 70th birthday anniversary, The doodle team released this wonderful animation/music short with a clip of Lennon's 'Imagine' playing in the background.
This is beautifully animated with simple line drawings against the white background. Elegant, memorable and inventive.
As a tribute to Jim Henson, an interactive muppet menagerie appeared on Google logo. Each character had a button to animate them individually and there was a little twist to the tale!
In a true spirit of internet creativity, a Youtube user has taken this concept and made a music video that is hilarious. Don't miss the gruesome ending on this one!
Tribute to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury
One of my favourites is the tribute to singer, songwriter, all round hellraiser and genius Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Backed by his 'Don't stop me now' track, this animation soars and glimmers much like Freddie's own outrageous antics on the stage and in his music videos.
A superb work of art.
Interactive Gumby show
My favorite Interactive playable doodles
There are a few doodles that transcend absolute height of creativity :
Musician and inventor Les Paul's 96th birthday saw the arrival of a fully functioning electric guitar as the logo. You can play the strings and even record the music clip! Have a go yourself at the Doodle museum website here: LES PAUL GUITAR
The 1960s turned the music world around when Dr Robert Moog invented the analog synthesiser. A whole range of new possibilities opened up and saw a new wave of music emerge. These sounds have been used in the sixties and seventies by all the popular music acts. On his 78th birthday the logo became a fully functioning Moog synthesiser with all the knobs and keys. Have a go here: MOOG SYNTHESISER
For the 30th anniversary of Pacman- the ultimate tribute came in the form of a palyable Pacman game as the doodle. The 'I'm feeling lucky' button became 'insert coin'. Enjoy a game of Doodle Pacman here: PACMAN
Celebrating animator Art Clokey's Gumby show, the doodlers created an interactive claymation delight that is fun to play with. See the video here -->
WinnersClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Google Doodle could create unprecedented views to your site if the theme of the doodle matched the content of the webpage/site!
Two doodles that increased hub traffic for me!
The design team seeks involvement of children all around the world and run annual 'Doodle4Google' competitions. The children are invited to submit their own designs for a google doodle and the winning design will be pictured on the search engine in their country. This has been running for the past few years.
The children show amazing range and depth of creativity as is to be expected. Kudos to Google for inspiring new talent for future creators. Here are some winners from the various countries over the years
If you'd like to submit your own design or have ideas for future design you can e-mail them to the design team at firstname.lastname@example.org . As expected the team probably receives hundreds of ideas every day - but if you don't try you'll never know if your idea was worth something.
So there you have it. If you wonder how inspiration struck me, I had written a hub on Fabergé eggs last Easter. It was getting some steady trickle of views and suddenly on May 30th the views started climbing drastically to over a thousand overnight. I was completely mystified until I realised Google had added a Fabergé eggs doodle to celebrate the birthday of the great jeweller Carl Fabergé. I then researched the doodles and realised such links could create unprecedented views to your site if the theme of the doodle matched the content of the webpage/site. I also realised that earlier this month my 'mother's day' themed hubs started getting huge traffic and I didn't at that time link this to the Google doodle's blessings!
Thank you Google doodlers- May your work continue for long and I eagerly will await your future innovations!