Happy holidays: Google Doodle shows evolution of the art

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The holiday Google Doodle has arrived. Call it an early Christmas present -- complete with interactive flashing lights and the tune “Jingle Bells” -- for Google Doodle fans who helped give the doodles a life of their own in 2011.

Among this year’s highlights were the Les Paul doodle, the Charlie Chaplin doodle and the Halloween doodle -- all were clicked and clicked again.

But where do these creations come from? From the Google doodlers, that’s who. That’s what they call themselves, anyway, but arguably, the doodlers stopped doodling some time ago.

PHOTOS: Google Doodles of 2011


What the team does is illustrate, animate and, together, cogitate -- creating what can rightly be termed art. The team’s creations, called Google Doodles, are built in, on and around the logo on the Google home page, and they’ve been seen by millions of Web users.

Over time, the doodles have become “more and more involved and complicated,” said team member Sophia Foster-Dimino in an interview with The Times. “More like works of art than fun gags.”

The Google doodles started in 1998 with a stick figure by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They were going to be out of town at the Burning Man festival and changing the homepage logo was their little way of letting it be known.

In 2000, a team was created to regularly supply the Google homepage with doodles. What began as “fun and quirky” transformed over time to much more -- see the mosaic stylings of the Dizzy Gillespie birthday doodle and the Van Gogh.

Foster-Dimino, along with Ryan Germick, Mike Dutton and Jennifer Hom, “all went to art school, but we have slightly different backgrounds,” she said. “That very much informs the team atmosphere ... the way we work on doodles.”

The doodlers aren’t high-profile. There are even ‘people within the company who are surprised the team exists,’ Foster-Dimino said.

But the doodles themselves have developed something of a cult following on the Web, with some of them becoming huge hits. The doodle honoring Les Paul with a playable digital guitar was so popular, for instance, that Google created a standalone site for users to strum.

Team members have their own favorites. For the Charlie Chaplin video doodle, ‘everyone took on a role as someone in the movie and worked with a video crew,’ Foster-Dimino said. Another favorite: the elaborate Halloween 2011 doodle, which she planned and managed. That doodle involved time-lapse video, and the team ‘spent eight hours out in the sun carving away at these enormous pumpkins.’

For the interactive doodle honoring Gumby mastermind Art Clokey, his son, Joe Clokey, and Joe’s wife, Joan, supervised the process. The Gumby characters are revealed as you click on the balls of clay.

Gumby puppet maker Nicole LaPointe-McKay also was involved. She told Gumby World that three to six puppets were made for each character for about four to six seconds of animation per character. The Google programming team then integrated the individual segments of animation.

For Foster-Dimino, ultimately, the work isn’t about the art the doodlers create but about the education they provide.

“When people come to the page, if they haven’t heard of someone,” they click through to the search results and “it’s a gateway to all this knowledge about this person.... My favorite thing about the job is to share this information with the world and inspire passion ... in people who want to learn more.”

Of course, sometimes the doodles are just plain fun.

Google Doodles for the upcoming Christmas holiday already have appeared on several Google properties (such as in Australia) on the eve of Christmas Eve, but not yet on (as of 11:30 a.m. PST).

U.S. fans might well be wondering whether Google has something special up its sleeve for them -- although the ‘Let It Snow’ Google trick may be considered pretty special.


Mark Twain, master of the insult

Google carves some awesome pumpkins

Robert Noyce, superstar of the Silicon Valley

-- Amy Hubbard+

Images: Google