Google Doodle: Everyday Visual Culture, Extra-Ordinary Art Education

According to the company’s website, Google Doodle started as a sort of “out of office” message from the company’s founders when they were away from their desks to attend the Burning Man festival in 1998. Since then, Google has used hundreds of these doodles as illustrations for the logo on their homepage honoring famous people, inventions, holidays, and other cultural touchstones. It seems safe to say that Google Doodle is a part of the everyday visual landscape for most internet users. Indeed, some probably go out of their way to visit the site just to see what the doodlers have done next.

While the doodles started out simply enough, with letters from the company’s name transformed into images, they now incorporate animation and roll over technologies. Designs like the 2010 Pac Man 30th Anniversary homage and the 2011 Les Paul birthday post set a new standard for the audience and designers of this contemporary art from.

While the logos we grew up with never changed – think Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonald’s – our childrens’ visual culture is constantly shifting. Google Doodle provides a great example for students to study in addition to providing a gateway into the content those pieces represent. I was thrilled to see the somewhat obscure abstract painter Agnes Martin recognized recently on what would have been her 102nd birthday. No doubt one of the Google Doodlers had a thing for her work.

The artists who make Google’s doodles use a wide range of media and are masterful designers. Their work is always fresh and engaging. We never tire of looking at it because we are never sure what we’ll see from one day to another. If only art education could be so exciting.

It seems the creative team at Google had the same thought. With the Doodle 4 Google program they introduce students to the creative processes employed by Google Doodlers to come up with new logos. Through video chats (on Google Hangouts, of course) students can see inside the doodlers’ studios and listen in on their thought processes. Lessons plans help educators guide their students through the creation of their own doodles and a team of (super cool and diverse) experts cull through the submissions to present the public with 10 designs in 4 age ranges. The public then has an opportunity to vote on their favorite design. It’s one of the most democratic curatorial processes for conceiving a public artwork (of sorts) I’ve ever heard of. And it was designed for kids!

Google 4 Doodle provides parents and teachers alike a chance to talk with kids about digital media and find out what they are paying attention to. Ask yours to share their favorite Google Doodles of all time with you. Be sure to ask them what made it so great. Consider looking through the submissions in your students’ age range with them and talk about what they see. Encourage them to cast a vote. The polls close May 9th.

PS: Sorry, my mom taught me at an early age that voting is a private affair. So, I can’t say which doodle I preferred…

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