How Google thinks about its iconic 'Doodles' that spruce up its homepage

Ryan Germick loves to shed light on forgotten anniversaries or lesser-known historical figures, and he has an incredibly enormous platform with which to do so: Google’s homepage.

For the last five years, he’s led the “Doodle Team”, a small-but-scrappy group of artists, engineers, and program managers who bring splashes of cleverness and creativity to the search engine’s site.

The now-iconic Doodle tradition started way back in 1998, when Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin put the logo of Burning Man festival behind one of the “O”s as a kind of “away message” for the week they planned to spend in the Nevada dessert. Two years later, the duo asked intern Dennis Hwang to create an illustration for Bastille Day. People loved it so much that they named Hwang “chief Doodler” and gave him reign to sporadically decorate the logo around special events or holidays.

Today, Doodles are an opportunity for Google to express its values (like technology, innovation, and quirkiness) in a fun, visual way, Germick explains. That rationale has led to creating thousands of incredibly diverse Doodles over the years, like celebrating Sally Ride, honouring the man who invented the Moog Synthesiser, and making a statement about equality right before the Sochi Olympics.

There’s also a much more organised process where Doodlers plan out their artwork for the year at long brainstorming sessions, making sure that they’re representing a diverse array of people and events. Although the team works out of Google’s Mountain View headquarters, they create country and region-specific artwork too, meaning, for example, that an artist may get matched with a Slovenian Googler to jointly come up with the perfect way to celebrate a nationally beloved poet.

GoogleThe Doodle team.

When he talked to Business Insider, Germick and his team were just preparing to launch a Doodle for Wilbur Scoville, who created the scale to measure the spiciness of peppers.

“We love knowledge that enriches our lives in some way,” he says. “For the Scoville Doodle, we were inspired by an individual’s passion to try to categorise something that wasn’t categorized. In some ways — in the grand scheme of the universe — it wasn’t the biggest thing, but it’s beautiful that he was able to put order to something that wasn’t ordered.”

Germick says that the ideal Doodle not only speaks to Google’s values, but is educational, immersive, and emotionally resonant for people in some way.

“Even if it’s a one-second smile, spread that across a billion users and that’s a billion seconds of smiling,” he says.

In the same vein, Kristopher Hom, another Doodler that Business Insider talked to, says that one of the best parts about his job is creating things that he knows people can bond over and talk about.

“It’s cool to be able to build something that everybody gets to experience together.”

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