Ryan Germick controls arguably the most significant billboard of all time, the Google homepage. He is the man, along with his team, behind the Google Doodles, the temporary homepage and logo redesigns that Google use to commemorate past or present events or anniversaries. Initially they were only intended as an internal ‘out of office’ reminder, but the Doodles have developed over time to often include animations and interactivity and become more frequent. Germick says that he has now started to see Google Doodles everywhere as he imagines how everyday objects could look decorating the homepage as the Google logo. The ideas aren’t just his though. Google employees around the world are encouraged to submit ideas and suggestions. Germick tries to encourage the kind of boundless creativity that he says is often seen in children but that tends to get lost or restricted as we get older.
The first Google Doodle was displayed in 1998, at the time of the Burning Man festival that year and was designed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to remind employees that they would be away at the festival. For a while after that the Doodles were designed by external consultants, but brought back in-house at Google in 2000. Google employees working on the Doodles are now known as ‘Doodlers’ and have expanded from a single employee to a dedicated team working out of Google’s Mountain View headquarters and connecting with their global employee base in an attempt to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.
The first interactive Doodle was in 2010, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. Many have followed since, including an electric guitar, a Rubik’s Cube, a Turing Machine and a Doctor Who game. About 400 Doodles have been created so far, planned from as much as 18 months earlier, with about 100 of those being animated. The more complex interactive Doodles usually have a team of engineers working on them.
The reach and potential influence of the Google Doodle is extraordinary, with a huge worldwide audience. Altering a company logo breaks with all marketing tradition, but Ryan Germick and his team manage to achieve it and incorporate a little fun and education as they do so.