Google Doodles started at Burning Man. In 1998, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were at the annual festival in the Nevada desert, and as a creative out of office reminder, they put a little stick figure behind the second o of the Google homepage logo. The idea of playing with the logo took root, and in 2000 they commissioned an intern to design the first holiday doodle for Bastille Day.
Since then, Google has run over 2,000 doodles, designed by a team of illustrators and often based on ideas from the public. At first, only major holidays got the doodle treatment, but now pretty much any event or anniversary is a good excuse for a bit of art!
2014 has had no shortage of cool and interesting doodles so far. Below are some of our favorites, and the stories behind them.
Dian Fossey’s birthday (January 16)
Dian Fossey was a zoologist who devoted her life to studying gorillas in the remote mountain forests of Rwanda. To get close enough to study their group behavior, she had to become one of them, mimicking their behavior and slowly habituating them to her presence. She fought to save them from poachers and their habitat from destruction.
Fossey was murdered in 1985 and her killer was never found. Fossey’s last journal entry read, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on the past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”
Doodle artist Mike Dutton poured through Fossey’s journals for inspiration, and each letter in the Doodle represents an aspect of her life. The final e was left somewhat unfinished and open-ended, representing the uncertain future of the mountain gorilla.
Australia Day/Doodle 4 Google 2013 winner (January 26)
This doodle, entitled “Brain Matter,” was the winning entry in the 2013 Doodle 4 Google Australia competition. Olivia Kong, a student at Hornsby Girls High School in New South Wales, is the artist. The Doodle 4 Google competition has been held in the US every year since 2008, and more recently in other countries as well. It’s open to young artists in grades K-12, and the winner receives a $30,000 scholarship to the college of their choice and a trip to Google Headquarters for the awards ceremony – not to mention being featured on the Google homepage for a day.
Holi Festival (March 17)
The Holi Festival is an ancient Indian holiday celebrating the renewal of life in the spring, and the power of truth over evil. Several legends are associated with it, most importantly the legend of Holika and Prahlada.
The Holi Festival Google Doodle, which appeared in India, is based on the colorful pigments that everyone throws in the air as part of the celebration. (Hence its other name, the Festival of Colors.)
Maria Gaetana Agnesi’s birthday (May 16)
Maria Gaetana Agnesi was an influential Italian mathematician. Born in Milan in 1718, she wrote the first book that covered both differential and integral calculus, and worked towards integrating mathematical analysis with algebra. In 1750, Pope Benedict XIV appointed her chair of mathematics, natural philosophy and physics at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Though she never served, she was the second woman in history to hold a professorship.
The animated Google doodle is based on the Witch of Agnesi curve, one of her discoveries. It was shown in most European and North African countries, as well as Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and western Asia.
Rubik’s cube (May 19)
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the invention of the Rubik’s cube, Google gave us a fully functional, interactive puzzle for a doodle, made possible by advances in CSS. Ernő Rubik is a Hungarian inventor and architect who designed the infamous cube as “a good task for his students.” The puzzle has since sold over 350 million units, making Rubik a millionaire. The doodle appeared in all countries.
The standard 3×3 Rubik’s cube has 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different permutations, but any combination can be solved within 20 moves.