The Early Days of Google Doodles: How Illustrator Ian Marsden Created the First Doodle
If you’re a fan of Google, you might have noticed that the search engine sometimes features creative and playful variations of its logo on special occasions, such as holidays, birthdays, or events. These variations are called Google Doodles, and they have become a beloved and iconic part of Google’s brand and culture. But did you know who created the first Google doodle, and how it happened?
According to a fascinating article in The Wall Street Journal, the story of the first Google doodle involves a lucky coincidence, a talented illustrator, and a creative marketer. It all started in 1998, when two Stanford University students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founded Google as a search engine for the internet. They initially used a simple logo featuring the word “Google” in colorful letters, but they soon realized they could use the logo as a canvas for fun and quirky designs that would celebrate and educate users about various topics.
Enter Susan Wojcicki, a young marketing manager who worked for Google in its early days (and who is now CEO of YouTube by the way). As the story goes, Wojcicki was looking for ways to promote Google and attract more users. She had the idea of commissioning an illustrator to create special logos for events. Wojcicki asked her colleagues if they knew any good illustrators, and one of them recommended Ian David Marsden, a cartoonist and illustrator, 32 at the time and father of two infant daughters, who had worked for Coca Cola and other clients and was making a name for himself with fun web graphics and animations during the amazing days of the first web bubble.
Wojcicki contacted Marsden to create some animated GIFs for an april fools joke about “Mentalplex Technology” – a new Google feature where you could just think about what you wanted to look for. Marsden was delighted and sent his designs to Wojcicki, who loved them. She showed it to Page and Brin, who also loved it. The logo was published on april fools day 2000, and became the first Google doodle.
Marsden’s design was a hit, and soon Wojcicki asked him to create more doodles for other occasions, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Marsden, who lived in Santa Monica, CA, drew the doodles on paper and scanned them into his dual-processor G3 Mac where he were digitally colorized them and emailed them to Wojcicki, who approved them and uploaded them to the Google site. Marsden worked closely with Wojcicki to refine each Doodle. He became known as the “doodler-in-chief” and drew all the Google doodles for over a year, until the company hired more illustrators and established a doodle team.
Most noticeable was probably the series of Google Doodles for the summer olympics in Sydney featuring a fun kangaroo character (the kangaroodle).
Marsden was studying animation at AET Academy of Entertainment and Technology, Santa Monica College at the time. He was hesitant to leave Santa Monica for Silicon Valley because he was also interested in breaking into the magazine cartoon world, animation for TV, and the budding web animation markets.
It’s hard to believe that back then, nobody could have known that Google would become the all-encompassing global mega-success that it is now. It didn’t seem like something to bet your entire future on. (Remember “Ask Jeeves”?) Yet the first Google doodles, created by Marsden, marked the beginning of a new era in the search engine giant’s evolution.
Today, Google doodles have become a beloved part of Google’s brand identity and have celebrated everything from holidays to historic events and individuals. It’s hard to imagine Google without them.
But it all started with a chance encounter between a marketing manager and a talented illustrator. Who knows where the next wave of innovation will come from? One thing is for sure: it’s always worth keeping an eye out for creative talent in unexpected places.
Today, Google doodles are created by a team of artists and engineers, and they continue to amaze and delight millions of people around the world. But the story of Ian David Marsden and his serendipitous encounter with Susan Wojcicki remains a testament to the power of creativity, collaboration, and innovation that fueled Google’s early days.
If you want to read the original article from The Wall Street Journal that tells the story in more detail, you can follow this link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304911104576444363668512764.
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