First it was an idea, then it was a company, and then it was a verb. With over one billion searches a day from 181 countries in 146 different languages, Google has effectively taken over the Internet. Despite incredible efficiency as a search engine as well as a business plan revolutionized forthe twenty-first century, Google offers one unique feature for its users: an effervescent logo that provides historical information about a certain day in a graphically creative and visually pleasing way.
These artistic logos are called Doodles, and there is a group of thirteen artists and engineers, called the Google Doodle team, that is in charge of choosing the special occasions and creating custom logos.
Created by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the first Doodle appeared in 1998, which was also the year the company was born. The first one incorporated the logo of an alternative music festival called Burning Man into the Google logo. Brin and Page went to this festival every year, and the Burning Man logo was used to tell users that they were away from the office. The change was so well received that the pair used it again when they were out of the office for Thanksgiving.
In 1998, Google’s logo change flew in the face of every theory about good business, because the cardinal rule of commercial success is to keep your image consistent. Others in the business world must have laughed at this small Internet company with its foolish founders. However, Brin and Page were some of the first to represent what makes twenty-first century business different from twentieth-century business.
In an interview with TIME magazine, Webmaster Manager Denis Hwang said that Brin and Page didn’t care what the experts said about the changing logo, “Larry and Sergey said, 'Why not? We should have fun with this.' They did it in spite of some resistance within the company."
At this point, changing the logo was not sophisticated or graphically advanced, but today, the Doodle team creates over 300 designs a year. They range from a Van Gough-style look with the letters of “Google” written into one of his famous painting to the word “Google” in Morse Code. Engineers and artists will sometimes work for months on a single design, yet it is only used for 24 hours. However, lead engineer Kris Hom still thinks it is a worthwhile endeavor, saying,“my job is to make everyone happy for 10 seconds, everyone on Earth.”
According to The Handbook of Creativity by Mary Ann Collins and Teresa M. Amabile, “there is considerable anecdotal and empirical evidence that creative production does require a high level of motivation.” In class, we talked about intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. The Google Doodle team displays high levels of intrinsic motivation because they do not receive high external rewards for increased creativity. Later in the “Motivation” chapter of Handbook, Collins and Amabile say, “creativity is motivated by the enjoyment and satisfaction that a person derives from engaging in the creative activity.”
This view seems to be in line with the opinions of the Doodle team. In March of 2012, the Google company released a video of several interviews with Doodle team members. One member recounted the external struggles he faced in art school. He said that people told him art school was foolish and he wouldn’t be able to make a living doing art. However, he now works for one of the most influential companies in the world. During that early time, though, he needed to rely on intrinsic motivation to keep going. He was not being externally rewarded for his hard work and creativity, so the intrinsic rewards had increased importance.
In Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds, he describes a person’s creativity as a triangle of the individual themselves, the domain in which they work, and the field of others working in the same business.
The Google Doodlers themselves display visual-spatial intelligence as well as interpersonal intelligence in that they work as a team to create these images. Additionally, several members of the team are engineers, meaning that they possess logical-mathematical intelligence as well.
Doodle team members are generally young, most in their twenties. This is significant for the flow of creativity. Young, ambitious artists are eager to share their ideas as opposed to older workers who may have grown complacent. Like the TED talk we watched in class from the IDEO founder, these young workers still display childlike qualities such as divergent thinking and constant questioning that aid in creativity. In Creating Minds, Gardner also stresses the childlike nature of the creative geniuses he has studied.
In terms of the domain of website logos, the paradigm shifted when Brin and Page initially decided to change the logo. The Doodle team continued to move the paradigm of creative logos when they added animations and games, making the logos interactive. This past Valentine’s Day, the logo featured hearts that told real-life stories. Personally, I had never before seen anything like that in a website logo. Google is the first company to use a changing logo and is constantly pushing the envelope of that field.
Domain shifts are also described as “Big C” creativity, which is what Brin and Page’s changing logo is. However, the Doodle team is not changing the paradigm with their every-day designs. Instead, this creativity is what James Kaufman and Ronald Beghetto describe as “Pro-c,” or creativity more directly linked to careers in creative fields. Pro-c can lead to Big-C creativity (i.e. interactive logos) or stasis creativity (i.e. creating the same types of logos that are creative but not groundbreaking).
The final corner of the triangle is the online community that sees the logos. These people comprise the “field” that shapes the Doodle team’s creativity. One specific example of the field influencing the designers is the logo from April 25, 2003 that was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA. The DNA double-helix was incorrect, and almost immediately, emails from scientists all over the world flooded Google’s inboxes informing them of the mistake.
In the same TIME interview, Hwang stressed the huge amount of research behind every logo. One time, he took some artistic license on a portrayal of a Frank Lloyd Wright building, which alarmed architects around the world. “I felt so bad,” he said of the incident. “We don't want to mislead the public. Every time you do one of these, you learn something."
Renowned psychologist Robert Sternberg also stresses the environment’s affect on creativity, stating, “Creativity may be viewed as taking place in the interaction between a person an the person’s environment.” The Doodle team uses the world around them, both past and present, to make their creations. Most are celebrations of anniversaries, but others are reactions to current events. Around thetime of the Sochi Olympics, the logo displayed the rainbow colors of the LGBTQA movement in a stance against Russia’s anti-LGBTQA laws.
The Google Doodle team encompasses all three corners of Gardner’s triangle as well as Collins’ and Amabile’s motivation theory. Their creativity is seen be nearly everyone with an Internet connection, and their creations have touched the lives of many. So if you’re having a rough day or are in search of interesting information about this day in history, maybe just Google it.