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How doodling evolved at Google

Google doodlers are a small team of artists who create the decorative logos for the company's home page, images that celebrate events as varied as the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man and the 70th birthday of John Lennon to the invention of the bar code and the landing of the Mars rover.

It all started with Dennis Hwang, who grew up in Korea and came to the United States in middle school, not speaking a word of English. After doodling his way through school, Hwang graduated from Stanford with degrees in art and computer science. In 2000, working as an intern, Hwang was asked by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to do a doodle for Bastille Day.

Hwang realized, "Something that used to be frowned upon -- my drawing -- turned out to be my greatest asset."

Page and Brin had started the doodle tradition in the summer of 1998 as a way to alert users they were "out of office," at the Burning Man festival. In case the site crashed, they wanted users to know why no one at Google was answering the phone. Using clip art, Page and Brin created a small stickman figure placed behind the second "O" in Google.

"Larry and Sergey had done some of these themselves," Hwang said of the first doodles. "And they used freelance artists. The doodles didn't have any consistency, and they covered mainly the big U.S. holidays. So when I joined, we started a slightly more formal process and looked at how to have more fun with it."

He continued: "Since early on, our users have been very passionate about the doodles. In April 2003, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the understanding of DNA. I created something I thought was pretty aesthetically exciting and proudly posted it. Within minutes, I started to get e-mails from around the world, with scientists saying this is not a double helix. It was a couple of pixels off in terms of the crossover point."

Hwang, now a webmaster at Google who continues to consult with the doodle team, believes that the Google home page, in essence, is the face of the company. "I think when users see the face changing to reflect the holidays and occasions they too are celebrating with their families, it gives them a connection and reminds them there are people working hard behind the scenes."

Google "Chief Doodler" Micheal Lopez leads a small team of doodlers who create variations on the Google logo to mark anniversaries of various events around the world
 
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