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For Google, doodles are oodles of surprise

By Amy Zerba, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Google occasionally changes logo on its home page to celebrate a holiday or event
  • Google has created more than 200 doodles in the U.S. and more than 700 globally
  • The only rule that doodlers must uphold: The "Google" word must be readable in some way
  • Technology and innovation are two subject areas that inspire Google doodles

(CNN) -- Think back to those doodles you've inked in the margins of your notepad in school, at work or while listening on the phone.

Now imagine more than a billion people looking at your doodles in a given day. Better yet, imagine getting paid for them.

This happens at Google. The search-engine giant has a team of doodlers who brighten Google's plain home page with colorful illustrations -- all of them variations on the word "Google" -- for holidays and special events such as the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

During the Olympics, which end Sunday, that means a different home-page doodle -- depicting everything from curling to hockey -- for each of the 17 days of the games.

There's no set number on how many doodles Google does in a year, although the creations are appearing on its site more often. (Click here for a Google doodle history.) However, there is one rule for how a doodle should look: It must incorporate some form of the word "Google."

"We have a lot of fun and we like to innovate," says Micheal Lopez, the Web designer who heads the small team of doodlers based at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Lopez says employees from all over Google contribute ideas for doodles. On a few occasions, guest artists such as Jim Lee of DC Comics or Eric Carle, author of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," also have contributed doodles.

CNN talked with Lopez about why Google, which is known for its clean Web design, changes its logo and what the company hopes to communicate to its users through the doodles.

Why change the Google logo?

Because it's fun. I think that was the idea early on way back when [Google co-founder] Sergey [Brin] did our first doodle [in 1998] for the Burning Man [an annual festival in the Nevada desert]. It was a fun way to tell our users where they were going for the day. That basically translates into the holidays and celebrating different events, things that are relative to the culture.

How do you come up with ideas for doodles?

We all have our own ways of coming up with inspiration, but for me it's definitely doing the research into that particular culture or that particular day or that particular holiday. If it's a holiday that is recurring such as Valentine's Day or a Halloween doodle, I think one of the things that we always try to do is to come up with something fresh and new. And the way we get inspired to do things like that are just collaborative. We just bounce ideas off each other.

Micheal Lopez, who heads the team of doodlers at Google, never takes credit for his doodles. It's a team effort, he says.
Micheal Lopez, who heads the team of doodlers at Google, never takes credit for his doodles. It's a team effort, he says.

Do you ever take stances on social or political issues with doodles?

We'd probably never do that. Again, we're not trying to make any kind of statement. We want to celebrate things that are fun and a reflection of the Google culture.

When you say Google culture, what do you mean?

There's a certain fun and quirkiness involved in everything we typically do. We do a lot of collaboration. The environment here at Google revolves around innovation and technology and that's what we try to reflect through our doodles. We try to reflect that particular type of culture. That's why we celebrate a lot of inventors. We do a lot of technology doodles.

What do you hope users experience when you change the Google logo?

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We want them to come to the Google home page and see a doodle and be totally surprised with what they see. And sometimes they might not necessarily know about the event or holiday that we're celebrating, so then that gives them the opportunity to learn something new. (Users can learn about the event by clicking on the Google doodle).

What type of medium do you use to make these doodles?

Traditionally, we did everything digitally. We have pen tablet and tablet PCs that we work off of to create these doodles. But more recently, we are tying to do a lot of exploration and we are trying a lot of innovation around how we do doodles.

All the people that are on the team, who comprise the doodle team, are all artists themselves, so they all bring their unique style to things, their unique knowledge of art. We've got illustrators who do comics, we've got fine artists who work with oil, and we've got people who do sculpture and origami and things like that. And we encourage that.

We encourage experimenting with new things. So you'll find that any doodle can be created either from traditional media and we scan that in, or we'll do it digitally.

What's the feedback like?

A lot of it is just our users saying, "Wow, that was fun," or "Thank you for brightening up my day."

I want to be a doodler, so what do I need to do?

First of all you have to know how to have fun and you can't take your art too seriously. ... All of us are professional artists or professional designers, but with doodles, it would not be in our nature to take these things too seriously.

How do I submit ideas for doodles?

There's a mailing list to submit ideas at proposals@google.com.