The other day Ryan Germick and his colleagues sat down in the California sunshine fantasized about materials they’ d never worked with. “Dirt” said one, and the others agreed that he should try it.
Germick and his friends work at Google. In fact, these idiosyncratic artists’ output is what most people associate with Google. They’re the Google doodles teams, the artists who design the quirky pictures around Google's search box. “Doodles are a way to humanize Google”, says Germick, a 31-year-old former illustrator. “And it’s a way to surprise people when they visit the homepage.” The first doodle appeared on Bastille Day, July 14, 2000.
Though Google's motto is "do no evil", the doodles aren't just there for users’ aesthetic satisfaction. According to one estimate, the doodles add 15% to Google’s brand value.
A doodle usually originates in a brainstorming session that yielded the dirt doodle. Germick’s team of six former artists, children’s book illustrators, and graphic designers individually develop ideas, which they collectively evaluate. Where does Germick get his inspiration? "I read Popeye [a carton magazine], and right now I'm reading illustrated fairy tales and a book of propaganda posters", he explains. "I also read a lot of comics. The San Francisco library is a great resource!"
Other Google employees suggest topics as well, as do users. “We try to find an unexpected angle”, explains Germick. “Say we wanted to do a Johann Sebastian Bach doodle. We'd research which books he liked and which artists he was interested in.” Germick’ s Charlie Chaplin doodle even resulted in a short film.
Though Google now sells its doodles -- even on canvas -- the art probably won't land in any prestigious art museums. “I know the doodles are a temporal thing”, says Germick. “But we just want to make people happy. It's like putting a cent in one million people's pockets.”