Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Visit to Google

Photo by Emily Dubin

A few times a year Chronicle’s design department closes up shop early and heads out in search of inspiration. This fall we went to Google headquarters in Mountain View to meet the Google doodlers.

First we met up with head doodler Ryan Germick, who gave us a tour of the campus and answered all our incredulous questions. (Yes, that’s a beach volleyball court. Yes, people really use it.) The Google campus is pretty mind-boggling. Some of the highlights: Lush grounds with patio furniture galore. A van offering haircuts. On-site laundry. Beach volleyball. Free lunches and snacks. Did I mention you can bring your dog to work?

These color-coordinated bikes were scattered around the building entrances, available for workers who need a quick ride across campus. Photo by Emily Dubin.

Fun and games: Ben piloting out the Google Earth wraparound display. Note the ice cream sandwich in the corner.

Google It’s-It. Very delicious.

Then we got to the heart of the visit—getting to know the Google doodlers. The doodlers reconfigure the Google logo to commemorate everything from Thanksgiving to Freddie Mercury’s birthday. They’ve done more than 300 doodles for the U.S. and more than 700 doodles internationally. Considering their output, the doodlers are a surprisingly small bunch—I counted five illustrators and two engineers.

Some of the doodlers at work. From left to right: Sophia Foster-Dimino, Mike Dutton, and Marcin Wichary. Note the painting on the lower right…

…it’s the original Google doodle for Cezanne’s 172nd birthday (January 19, 2011)

The doodles often involve research, especially when they’re made for other countries’ Google pages. The doodlers work with Google’s local field offices to make sure they get the details right. The subject matter for the Chinese Valentine’s Day doodle below comes from a Chinese poem. I love the cloud lettering in this one.

Google doodle: Chinese Valentine’s Day (August 6, 2011)

Some of my favorite doodles are interactive. I still remember this Pacman doodle from last spring.

Google doodle: Pacman’s 30th anniversary (May 22, 2010)

And this interactive doodle is mesmerizing. (It also, incidentally, led to a worldwide awareness of narwhals.) The interactive doodles are collaborations between the illustrators and user interface designers. They involve some creative problem solving to make them function seamlessly across different browsers and devices.

Google doodle: Jules Verne’s 183rd birthday (February 8, 2011)

But a doodle doesn’t need to be interactive to be memorable, like the gorgeous Borges commemorative doodle below. Doodles are often tributes to artists or scientists.

Google doodle: Jorge Luis Borges’s 112th Birthday (August 24, 2011)

Speaking of tributes… this one nails Freddie Mercury’s manic energy:

Still from Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday Google doodle (September 6, 2011)

After we got back to the office, we caught the doodling bug. These are based on some of our favorite Chronicle titles… see if you can guess which ones before you click.

By Alice Chau

By Emily Dubin

By Ben Laramie

By Aya Akazawa

Allison Weiner

Allison Weiner

Allison Weiner

Senior Designer at Chronicle Books and weekend crafter.
Allison Weiner

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