'Doodles' Make Googling an Art Form

google doodle
This wonderful Doodle ran July 24, 2012, in honor of Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday. Google

Google, when it comes to cutting-edge technology and out-of-the-box thinking, is a Silicon Valley front-runner. They make cool phones. They've built self-driving cars. They put out maps that your self-driving car can use. And little home speakers that you can talk to ... and they talk back! And they basically created their own verb by building the leading internet browser.

So why is a forward-thinking company like Google doodling around with ... doodles?


You may have seen these often whimsical doodly-thingies while tapping around on the globe's most-used search engine (that'd be, um, Google): Sketches (sometimes animated), rich paintings, full-out videos and interactive games that occasionally appear over the top of the Google search bar, where the Google logo normally sits. These little one-offs, adapted to different Google versions worldwide, incorporate the well-known logo into their designs to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or other historic happenings.

They may not be as utterly utilitarian as Docs or Drive or Waze or YouTube — all more Google products — but this endearing cyber artwork is undeniably educational, and out-of-the-box fun.


Doodling Around at Google

In 1998, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page slapped a stick man sketch onto the logo in honor of the Burning Man festival in Nevada as kind of an out-of-office sticky note. It was so well-received that, since then, more than 2,000 doodles have subbed in as the colorful logo on google.com.

Doodles, according to Google (via, of course, a Google search), are "fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists." Though "sometimes" spontaneous, these doodles are more likely well thought-out and painstakingly researched by a dedicated team of doodlers.


Yes. Google has a dedicated team of doodlers. Or, maybe, Doodlers.

"There're a little over a dozen illustrators, animators and designers on the Doodle team. (We call them Doodlers,)" Ryan Germick, the principal designer at Google Doodles, says via email. "We also collaborate with engineers and local culture experts in Google offices around the world, as well as guest artists from time to time."

Google team members from all over the world, including the Doodlers, get together once a year to go over ideas. They listen to users and to local experts, and then head to the calendar. (Probably, Calendar.) "To make time for research and coordination, we plan most of our Doodles 12 or more months in advance," Germick says.

Not all are produced so meticulously. When scientists discovered evidence of water on Mars on Sept. 29, 2015, for example, Doodlers didn't doodle around, knocking out this animated beauty in a few hours. Some, though, can take more than a year to craft.

Doodles can be simple (Halloween 1999), or complex (this tribute to Mister Rogers earlier this year). They can mark the familiar (the arrival of spring, say, in this typically funny Doodle from 2016) or the obscure (the 500th anniversary of the Piri Reis Map, on April 7, 2013). Mostly, though, they have to mean something. Doodles are not, evidently, just doodles.

"While there are many considerations," Germick writes, "overall the Doodle selection process has always aimed to celebrate a diverse mix of topics that reflect Google's personality, teach people something new, and most importantly, to make sure Doodles are meaningful to local culture."

google doodle
Google created this Doodle on Nov. 13, 2009, when scientists announced water was found on the surface of the moon.


The King of Doodles

Entire articles have been penned on the best Google Doodles of all time. The interactive Doodle marking the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man (May 21, 2010) was a classic. So, too, was the one on the 200th anniversary of Grimm's Fairy Tales (Dec. 20, 2012), an interactive storyboard of Red Riding Hood's adventure. (Some of the background on that Doodle is here.)

We asked Germick to pick out a favorite, which is probably a bit unfair considering he's had his hand in so many of them. He's been on the team since 2011.


Still, we asked. He answered.

"The Birth of Hip Hop Doodle [Aug. 11, 2017] stands out as a high-water mark. We enlisted the help of a wide group of collaborators to do justice to the artform, including graffiti artist Cey Adams, producer Prince Paul, and Youtube's own Lyor Cohen," Germick writes. "The Doodle featured a history primer from Fab Five Freddy of 'Yo! MTV Raps' fame, an interactive turntable with dozens of classic breakbeats (plus a polka record we snuck in), and game-like achievements celebrating hip-hop pioneers like Roxanne Shanté, Kool Herc and others. We toured historical spots in the Bronx with Grandmaster Caz, viewed the personal archive of Disco Fever owner Sal Abbatiello, and even got to hear the story of Run DMC from DMC himself, Darryl McDaniels."

Google Doodlers will accept ideas for Doodles from anyone (users can send their brainstorms to proposals@google.com), and they will occasionally clear the deck to have guests or users have their own published (including students in the annual Doodle 4 Google competition). Good luck future Doodlers!