From the company's early days, users who pull up Google's search engine are periodically greeted with an unexpected bit of art on the otherwise uncluttered page. Known as "doodles," the artistically altered logos celebrate nationally and culturally significant days, according to Google web designer Ryan Germick, a San Francisco resident.
Starting Friday, Google users around the world will be seeing a series of stylized logos celebrating the Winter Olympics and Valentine's Day, the latest work by the Mountain View team responsible for corporate doodles.
Some are rather obscure, like Norman Rockwell's birthday or the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope. Major holidays are certainly included, but the artists try to come up with creative ways to portray, say, Valentine's Day or Thanksgiving.
"We're not above showing hearts and turkeys, but as artists we want to push ourselves creatively and do something cool," he said.
An illustrator by training, Germick, 29, is part of a small band of Google employees known as "doodlers." When he's not developing logos or doing other graphic and Web work for the Mountain View-based company, Germick is doodling.
The doodles show up a few times a month on Google pages in different countries. One appears somewhere in the world about every other day, Germick said. "We like to mix it up."
The genesis of these ideas is a throwback to Google's grassroots beginnings. Google employees all over the world will send in ideas, such as an Easter Island festival in Chile. The team researches (yes, they Google) the event and often brainstorms ideas together.
Google users also submit ideas, Germick said.
According to company lore, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin posted the first doodle in 1998. The pair added a little stick figure, inspired by the iconic image of the Burning Man festival. They were leaving town to attend the festival in Northern Nevada and wanted to explain their absence in case the Web site crashed while they were gone.
The duo later asked then-intern Dennis Hwang to create some art for Bastille Day, and a tradition was born, according to Hwang's posts on Google's official blog.
Since 2008, the company has also offered a doodle contest for U.S. schoolchildren. Students create their own logos and the winner's runs on the site for a day.
Some designs come together off the cuff. The recent discovery of water on the moon prompted an email from a user, and a watery doodle quickly followed. Ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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