A Brief History Of Google Doodles

Google is one of the Big Four technology companies aside Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. It’s a household name and even a transitive verb. The American Dialect Society even chose it as the ‘’the most useful word of 2002’’.

But way before the multinational company gained its dominance on the world wide web, in the year 1998, two PhD students from Stanford University in California – Sergey Brin and Larry Page – were attending the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Before they left for the event, they invented an amusing and creative way to notify their users if the servers crashed – a kind of out-of-office message. They drew a rudimentary stick figure, a symbol associated with the Burning Man festival, just behind the logo’s second ‘O’. And thus Google Doodles was born.

The first-ever Google Doodle, by Sergey Brin and Larry Page

As their company and name grew, so did their doodles. The next doodle was designed by a mere intern, Dennis Hwang, to commemorate Bastille Day in 2000. Astonished by the positive response by their users Brin and Page appointed Hwang as ‘chief-doodler’.

The doodle commemorating Bastille Day

Google Doodles started out as random modifications to the logo of the company to celebrate or express a holiday greeting such as Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day, St. Patricks Day, etc. They were neither animated nor hyperlinked. The logo was superimposed over funny little drawings as a hover text. But this fun idea soon turned into an essential and global part of the company, gaining recognition over other search engines and by 2010, Google had amassed an army of talented illustrators and engineers that periodically brainstormed to come up with better and funnier Doodles.

Most of us can recall interactive Doodles, some with a short game, others with cute animations. Well, the first animated doodle appeared in January of 2010 honouring the renowned physicist, Sir Issac Newton.

The first-ever animated doodle commemorating Isaac Newton

The first interactive doodle appeared the year before celebrating Pac-Man, the game that transcended geopolitical barriers at the time. It had all the original game logic from the 1980’s masterpiece along with sounds and graphics and of course everyone’s favourite pizza-shaped character.

Pac-Man, the interactive doodle

Google even opened its doors to the public inviting students to share their own artwork with the platform to win scholarships. In 2005, Google’s first Doodle 4 contest winner was drawn by 11-year-old Lisa Wainaina.

Doodle by Lisa Wainaina

From then on the dedicated team of doodlers at Google started expanding their horizons. The first live-action doodle was to celebrate Charlie Chaplin’s 122nd birthday in 2011. It featured cameos from the entire Doodle team and was recorded on the same sets as Chaplin’s films.

Many of us would recall the first organic Doodle marking Earth Day in 2012 with a rooftop camera showing a Google garden taking on the colours of the logo.

Earth Day doodle made using Google Earth

Another noteworthy mention is the Google Doodle featuring 100 inspiring women from all over the world to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2014.

The Doodle team of the search engine that now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on an average, have expanded their take on the logo by including region-specific holidays and famous personalities. In fact, Google Doodle has shone the spotlight on some lesser-known Indians who have since been forgotten over time, such as the Indian American astrophysicist who was at the forefront of his field in the 20th century, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar. His birthday was marked by a short animated doodle on October 19th, 2017.

Doodle for S. Chandrashekhar

Nain Singh Rawat, a curious soul, was the first man to discover Tibet and he did so by disguising himself as a Tibetan monk. Google Doodle celebrated his 187th birthday on October 21st of the same year.

Doodle for Nain Singh Rawat

Nritya Samragini, the ‘’Empress of Dance’’ was an accomplished Kathak Sitara Devi and was honoured by Google Doodle on November 8 of 2017.

Doodle for Nritya Samragini

The creator and founder of the beloved Amar Chitra Comics, Anant Pai or as he was lovingly called ‘Uncle Pai’ was remembered on his 82nd birth anniversary on September 17, 2011.

Doodle commemorating Anant Pai

The acclaimed ghazal king Jagjit Singh was honoured on February 8, 2013.

Doodle for Jagjit Singh

India’s first female lawyer, Cornelia Sorabji, was celebrated on her 151st birthday through a doodle on November 15, 2017, which depicts her in front of the Allahabad High Court to which she was admitted after years of struggle.

Doodle for Cornelia Sorabji

Doodle team has proved itself worthy by producing over 4000 doodles for our homepages around the world. Their work brings a smile to the faces of consumers all over the world. No matter your religion, your ethnicity, caste, colour, age, and gender, there is a Google Doodle for you. A quick search on the Doodle Archive is like a walk down memory lane.

The people of the Doodle team haven’t left anyone out, as there are various doodles celebrating festivals like Christmas, Easter, Holi, and Diwali as well as creative doodles to honour Independence and Republic Day. They have remembered people from all walks of life from Rosa Parks to Freddie Mercury to Mark Twain to Vikram Sarabhai – this team has never disappointed.

There is more than meets the eye especially when it comes to Google Doodles. Each Doodle has a story of its own. So the next time you are greeted by something other than the usual Google logo, take a minute to read about it and appreciate the thought and creativity of the Doodle team. They do make a stellar effort to break away from the monotony of life with a dash of history, a splash of animation, a play of colours and just the right amount of fun.

Feel free to send in your own ideas at doodleproposals@google.com or participate in the Doodle 4 Google program. Who knows what the next Google Doodle will look like? Whose imagination will the Google Doodle bring to life next?

Written by Andrea Gonsalves

Images from Google

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