Doodle for Google

2011-02-19 00:00

SOME days there are things that just add that extra ounce of joyous satisfaction to the routine of the day. For example, waking up to the sound of gentle chirping, as opposed to an abusive hadeda.

I love those days when you feel like you’re on top of things. You get the dial setting on the toaster just right. The traffic lights are all green on the way to work. And when you open the Google webpage and you know what the customised logo is all about … it’s just so satisfying.

The great thing about the customised Google logo is that even if you’re not sure, you simply double-click on it to empower you with chit-chat for lunchtime.

The Google doodle, as it is called, is one of those sideshows which sparks more than just a little curiosity.

If you work behind a computer, it’s a quick but usually welcome distraction that Google offers to pause and reflect on the world and its history, before using the portal to plunge into the depths of the Internet abyss.

Google doodles have gained immense popularity in the past few years. They have celebrated the Fourth of July, the Olympics and John Lennon’s 70th birthday. The Google team put up an elaborate holiday doodle for Christmas last year that took five artists about 250 hours to make. There’s even a schools competition in the United States for the best-designed doodles.

The company estimates it has created more than 900 doodles since 1998, with 270 of them running in 2010. It would seem, then, that this year marks a continuation of the exponential curve.

This week, for example, Google marked Valentine’s Day with a doodle based on the work of the U.S. artist Robert Indiana, who exhibited his steel “LOVE” sculpture in New York in 1970. The work has seen multiple reproductions in different media, including as a U.S. postage stamp.

Last week Google marked two historical events — the birthday of American inventor Thomas Alva Edison and science fiction author Jules Verne — with customised logos on the search engine’s homepage.

Edison, who is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, had his 164th birthday celebrated with a doodle featuring some of his best inventions. The logo portrayed a combination of Edison’s work, such as the phonograph, the motion picture camera and a practical electric lightbulb. Clicking on the logo took the user to a page displaying search results about the scientist.

The doodle celebrating Jules Verne paid tribute to the writer’s undersea novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea with an interactive doodle featuring an ocean scene viewed through the portholes of a submarine.

The doodle made clever use of the iOS accelerometer (an Apple software device), which meant that iPad and iPhone users who tilted their device could watch the water level move in any direction they wish. People with traditional desktop computers could also interact with the doodle by moving the joystick on the right-hand side of the logo.

So who designs all these logos? Well, these days the doodle is sometimes a more complex process involving multiple artists. But the first official Google doodle artist was Dennis Hwang.

It all came about during the Burning Man Festival of 1998 when Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin designed the first doodle in order to notify users of their absence.

Subsequently, and knowing that Hwang also had a major in arts, Page and Brin asked him to come up with the doodle for Bastille Day on July 14, 2000.

“By the time I began an internship in the summer of 2000, the company was producing doodles on a regular basis,” writes Hwang in a blog post.

“At the time I was a Stanford undergrad majoring in art and computer science and although I hadn’t been hired to do anything remotely related to logo design, I eventually stumbled into my first doodle gig.”

His actual position was Google’s international webmaster.

“The doodles are only a small part of my actual job,” he writes. “But it’s definitely my favourite.

“Holding up my mock-ups and then holding my breath while Larry and Sergey do their ‘thumbs-up, thumbs-down’ emperor thing is never boring and I love the fact that my little niche within this company turned out to be something so cool and creative and, well, Google-y.”

One source called him “the most famous unknown artist in the world — his work doesn’t hang in galleries or museums, but it’s been viewed hundreds of millions of times”.

Not only that, but if you’re behind a computer often, it is one small part of your day which will seldom be routine.


•Visit to watch a time lapse video of a Google Doodle creation by Dennis Hwang.


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