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The Wonderful World of Google Doodles

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.


A Cultural Icon

What intrigues, puzzles, teases, remembers, raises awareness, pays tribute, plays games, makes links and ultimately brings a smile to the dreary routine of everyday computer usage?

What started life as a quirky 'out of office' sign put up by the founders during their absence to attend a cultural festival (and to let users know that the site will run despite their absence)?

What can cause a lottery like sudden surge in traffic to an unsuspecting site or a webpage due to linkage to the subject matter at hand?

What is, in short, is a modern cultural icon?

Ladies, Gentlemen and Children I present to you, the wonderful world of the Google Doodles.

We'll trace its origins, variations, relevance and impact and in the course of this will also encounter the various stories it has come to generate since its inception in 1998.

The Birthplace of Google

Always wanting to break new ground, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page created their now omnipresent search engine while studying at Stanford University. The primary idea was to organize the information from searches in a way different from the conventional model of counting search terms. They came up with a Page rank system.

They called this search engine 'Backrub' as it checked backlinks. However, when ambitions grew, they wanted a name that represented their vision of seeking hundreds of millions of users and links. The name 'Google' is a misspelling of the term 'Googol' which in mathematical terms is the number one followed by a hundred zeroes .

Sergey Brin created the first version of the logo using a computerised version of the letters. Later designer Ruth Kedar came on board was responsible for the modern version of the famous logo and its colour scheme.

As you can see from above the logo itself has been through three incarnations to the present one.

Google Doodle celebrating the Moon Landing

Google Doodle celebrating the Moon Landing


Out of Office

In 1998 during the birthing of this nascent organisation Brin and Page wanted to go to the famous Burning man festival. They knew that their search engine was enjoying a steadily rising popularity and were confident that the servers will carry on regardless their absence. In a way of telling the users that they were away at the festival, they playfully incorporated the 'Burning Man' into the second 'o' of the Google logo.

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The First ever Google doodle was born:

Sergey Brin's first Google doodle in 1998 about his trip to the Burning Man festival!

Sergey Brin's first Google doodle in 1998 about his trip to the Burning Man festival!

Logoing where no one has gone before...

Sergey and Larry got such a lot of feedback on their quirky ' burning man' doodle that they decided to do another one that year for Thanksgiving.

The absolute commandment about logo design is not to meddle with a logo and keep changing it. Wise people in marketing consider it a bad move in terms of branding. It is all about creating and maintaining brand identitiy and consistency.

However, Larry and Sergey were never ones to take 'no' for answer. They were more of a 'why not?' guys. Inspired by the public response,they hired external contractors to periodically do a Google doodle, usually celebrating a national festival.

In 2000, then Google intern Dennis Hwang designed a logo for Bastille day that was also a hit. Page and Brin installed Hwang as their chief doodler.

Dennis Hwang- Google's chief doodler

Dennis Hwang- Google's chief doodler

Global Phenomenon

The Google doodle grew in popularity associated with the company's meteoric rise and global status. A team of doodlers are employed to brainstorm, sketch and create doodles.

A doodle may be instituted:

  • to celebrate birthdays of Artists, scientists, inventors, writers, explorers, leaders and other memorable figures.
  • to commemorate a religious festival or a memorable date
  • to highlight events within the company- anniversaries, achievements
  • to highlight individual countries memorable days and religious festivals
  • to highlight cultural phenomenon and trends
  • to advertise global sports events like the Olympics, World cup etc.

Since its inception, every year the Google Doodle grows in stature and innovation. Fitting of its global presence, the doodles are tailored to suit the individual countries searchers as well as global themes.

Love Is Missing an 'l' !

Valentine's Day 2009- caused controversy as people thought the doodle team had left the 'L' out. They were inundated with forum posts! In fact the green L was the stem of the strawberry.

Valentine's Day 2009- caused controversy as people thought the doodle team had left the 'L' out. They were inundated with forum posts! In fact the green L was the stem of the strawberry.

Art and Artists

Celebrating classical and modern art blends easily with the ethos of Google Doodles. It allows the team to play with the Google imagery and incorporate artistic themes of world famous creators. Here are some of the examples of artists celebrated by the Google doodles. All images are found and searchable at the Google Doodle museum Doodles.

Here you can find all the Google doodles from the time of origin to present day, arranged chronologically. They also contain fascinating insights and notes on the doodle or the subject at hand.

Every year, the doodles expand their scope into a truly global outlook, celebrating local talent from various countries. Some logos may only have been visible to certain countries while others are used worldwide depending on popularity and wider awareness. Inviting guest designers, artists and animators has also become vogue.

Mexican Mural Artist Diego Rivera 's 125th birthday

Mexican Mural Artist Diego Rivera 's 125th birthday


The Doodle team celebrates world famous writers on their anniversaries. Every year the range and scope expands to incorporate notable writers from different parts of the world. Sometimes these are straightforward and sometimes they incorporate the writers famous creations and give clues to their identity.

Mimicking the famous radio broadcast of Orson Welles, the Doodle team created a series of Google doodles of a UFO 'abducting' the 'o' of the Google causing internet speculation. They later revealed it was to celebrate the birthday of HG Wells and his novel 'The War of the Worlds'.

Notable doodles also include an animated version of the submarine 'nautilus' ( 20,000 leagues under the sea ) that could be navigated using the cursor so we could see through the portholes. This was to celebrate the birthday of science fiction writer Jules Verne.


Not forgetting the scientific advancements and the pioneers in science, the team also delivers science themed doodles. This is to celebrate birthdays of scientists and anniversaries of key inventions and discoveries.

Notable doodles include the well known such as Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Gregor Mendel to the relatively obscure Nicolas Steno- father of modern geology, Robert Noyce the inventor of the microchip etc.

Scientific inventions and discoveries such as photography, Flight, X-ray, Daguerrotype, Vitamin C, Laser, Space Flight are all also celebrated.

Google Celebrates SF stalwart Stanislaw Lem's birthday

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