Thursday, March 1, 2012

Google Doodles

Google's current standard logo
As I sat down and thought about what has creatively struck me this week to blog about, I noticed that the Google logo on my homepage had been altered to depict singing frogs leaping in the air in honor of this being a Leap Year and in celebration of composer Gioachino Rossini's 200th birthday. Google frequently converts their standard logo to a "Doodle" as they call it to commemorate special events and dates or celebrate the lives of famous artists and scientists. Often I don't pay much attention to these new logos because it happens so frequently, and usually when I log onto Google, I have some intended purpose (and thus don't stay on the main page for long)...

Google Doodle, February 29, 2012 (commemorating composer Gioachino Rossini's 200th birthday and the present Leap Year)
In the grand scheme of things, Google Doodles are just a drop in the bucket when considering the creativity of Google as a corporation overall, but the Doodles are a little thing that can be educational, beautiful, or just plain fun. Honestly, prior to seeing the above Doodle, I had never heard of Gioachino Rossini, but in this context, I briefly learned who he is and why he is significant enough to merit a Google Doodle.
First Google Doodle, August 30, 1998 (commemorating company founders' attendance at the Burning Man Festival)
Google Doodles have been a part of Google's company culture since the days when the company was in its infancy. In 1998, company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin comically altered the company's trademark logo on the homepage with a stick figure walking out of the second "O" to alert users that they would be "out of the office" while attending the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Obviously these two men's brief absences had little effect on company or site operations, and thus there was little reason to notify users other than for the fun of it. The Doodle went over well with Google users, and in 2000, Larry and Sergey asked a young intern named Dennis Hwang to alter the logo in recognition of Bastille Day. Dennis' first Doodle was well received, and he was later named Google's Chief Doodle Officer as Doodles became a regular site feature.
Google Doodle, May 11, 2011 (commemorating dancer Martha Graham's 117th birthday)
Initially, Google Doodles celebrated common and well-known holidays, but as the company and technology overall have evolved, so too have Doodles. Now, Doodles acknowledge and celebrate a wide array of events and anniversaries from the Summer Olympics to the birth of dancer Martha Graham. In the past ten years, over 1000 Doodles have graced Google's homepage (over 300 in the United States and over 700 internationally). What started as a joke has become one of the company and site's signature special features.

Google Doodle, June 9, 2011 (commemorating electric guitar inventor Les Paul's 96th birthday)
Dennis Hwang remains charged with creating Google Doodles to this day, but now he has a full staff of graphic artists and animators working under him (pictured below). No longer are Doodles confined to just being standard images with the word Google imposed into them. In the last year, a Doodle has celebrated what would have been I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball's 100th birthday by showing a television that played black and white clips from the show. To celebrate the birthday of Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, Google turned its logo into a fully functional electric guitar that allowed users to strum songs and record them for later playing.

Current "Doodlers" Jennifer Hom, Mike Dutton, Ryan Germick, Sophia Foster Dimino, and Willie Real

Google's Doodle team creates the altered logos by holding brainstorming sessions about things that interest them or by looking at things that have been trending on the site. They do allow users to submit proposals for future Doodles or fan created Doodles by emailing and have held a contest called "Doodle 4 Google" to allow fans to directly create Doodles that are then used on the site. Ultimately, the Doodle selection team and artists aim to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google's personality and love for innovation. All past Doodles (both American and international) dating back to the first in 1998 are currently archived at for users to view and explore.

So why is this creative? Google Doodles are not fundamental to the site's intended purpose, so they really do not solve a problem nor do they most likely generate much additional traffic to the site. Most marketing professionals would cringe at the idea of altering a logo that is so intrinsically tied to a major international corporation. Still, Google sees this feature of their site significant enough to keep a fairly large staff on the payroll just to alter said logo about once every couple weeks. Maybe the company does it because they want to spread little-known knowledge in the world or just want to distinguish themselves from the likes of Bing or Yahoo, but I think that they do it just for the pure enjoyment of it. When you are having a busy or stressful day, there can be something calming or therapeutic about strumming a few notes on the Google logo or learning a new trivia fact about something related to the present date. Google Doodles exist to allow the company to exhibit its creative side while also allowing users to be creative in the same process. Furthermore, Doodles are educational by sharing the spirit of innovation and creativity with a good chunk of the world on a fairly frequent basis. Doodles might not be considered creative based on our criteria of being novel or extremely useful, but no one can argue that the whole concept is not deeply immersed in a spirit of creativity.

1 comment:

  1. I think blogging about the creativity of the Google logo was a wonderful idea. So often there is creativity directly in front of our faces, but we are too busy looking for the creativity around the corner to see it. I use Google daily and often scroll my mouse over the logo to learn my fun fact of the day. I was quite intrigued to learn from this blogger that the logo images for Lucille Ball's birthday was video clips of I Love Lucy and for Les Paul's birthday was a virtual electric guitar. I have never seen the logo this creative!

    I agree that the constant update of the Google logo is creative. As far as the big search engines and information websites go (such as wikipedia, yahoo, bing, etc.), Google is the only one that is brave enough to manipulate its logo without fearing a loss of popularity. Not only does it manipulate its logo, but it does this by providing true facts that individuals may be interested in.

    I disagree with the blogger when he/she states that Google's logo changes are not novel. Though facts aren't new and logos aren't new, I do not know of another website that has put them together in the way that Google has. I don't think creativity has to necessarily be brand new, but a new combination of things may be just as creative. For instance, in the z-boys video that we watched in class, the boys combined surfing techniques with skateboarding techniques to create something novel and creative. Skateboarding and surfing already existed, but the creative element came when the two styles were put together. Likewise, fun facts of the day and the Google logo exist on their own, but the two together provide a whole new creative service.


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