Celebrating the Google Doodle

09.06.11

Raising a smile on the faces of web searchers everywhere since 1998

Today’s Google Doodle marks Les Paul’s birthday with a playable guitar (still available here):

Google Doodles are temporary replacements of the Google logo on the search engine’s homepage. The first was a pretty humble addition of a stick figure to the chunky old Google logo in 1998 (to mark the Google founders’ attendance of the Burning Man festival):

1998: Burning Man festival

In the following years national and international holidays like Christmas (1999) and Father’s Day (2001) were marked with cutesy characters…

1999: Christmas
2001: Father's Day

As time went on, things became a little more playful and self-aware…

2002: Part of a 5-part Dilbert comic

… and more and more anniversaries and birthdays began to be marked:

2003: 50th anniversary of understanding DNA
2003: MC Escher's birthday
2004: Ray Charles' birthday
2005: Vincent Van Gogh's birthday

… and the experimentation with the logo’s elements reached new levels:

2006: Louis Braille's birthday
2008: Large Hadron Collider
2009: Invention of the bar code
2011: Robert Bunsen's 200th birthday

Over the years Google have also opened up the Doodles to artists…

2008: Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Shepard Fairey / Studio Number One

… and to members of the public via their Doodle 4 Google competitions:

2008: Google Doodle by Linnea Selin, Doodle 4 Google competition winner

More recently we’ve seen the latest web coding employed to create animated and interactive Google Doodles that surprise, delight and – on occasion – grind the world’s productivity to a halt:

2010: 25th anniversary of buckyball
2010: Pac-man's 30th anniversary was celebrated with a playable Pac-man maze comprised of the Google letters

The Pac-Man game is still available here.

2011: Interactive particle logo to celebrate launch of Google Instant

Try the interactive particle logo here

2011: Charlie Chaplin's birthday was celebrated with a movie (Google Moovle?)

Click here for the Charlie Chaplin Google Doodle movie

The Google Doodle’s are really successful in something simple, but quite powerful: raising a smile on the faces of its users. Google is a massive cooperation, but in an understated way the Doodles provide a connection to a fun and playful side to the brand – almost as if it was still run by the couple of PhD students that started it back in 1996. Handily, this kind of simple humananising activity provides a neat counter to the kind of Orwellian-flavoured negativity that will probably always loom as the shadow to the Google brand.

Arguably, Google’s logo tinkering has been something of a (probably accidental) forerunner to the kind of ‘fluid’ identities that are rapidly becoming de rigueur:

Aol's 'fluid' identity
MTV's 'empty vessel' identity

For Google, their willingness to play with their identity demonstrates the quiet confidence that has been a hallmark of the brand from Day One.

Whatever your perspective, it’s certain that one thing it does brilliantly is to generate buzz: at the time of writing both #googledoodle and #lespaul are trending globally on Twitter. Alright, Google have an advantage in benefitting from the kind of traffic that would crash most companies’ servers many times over, but nonetheless they’ve created the kind of positive water-cooler chat that keeps them one step ahead of their rivals – and that’s something I’m sure other brands would kill for.

Google’s full archive of the their doodles is available here.