Sixteen years ago, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the first Google doodle, a drawing on the search engine’s homepage to let employees know that their bosses had split for Burning Man, the desert music festival. Since then Google has built a team of 10 artists and three full-time engineers dedicated to making the drawings. The illustrations now number more than 2000 and celebrate everything from gay rights to grandfathers, to pick two recent doodles.
The drawings are a break from the normally spare Google homepage. And while they send visitors Googling to find out the stories behind the images, they also can land the company in the middle of political fights. In June 2012, Google chose to honor the creation of the drive-in movie theater instead of D-Day. On Easter Sunday last year, some criticized the company for honoring civil rights leader Cesar Chavez instead of Jesus Christ.
For year’s Valentine’s Day doodle, Google was joined by Ira Glass, owner of public radio’s most distinctive voice, to provide the stories behind the illustrations
“He was meeting us for fun, I guess,” says illustrator Jennifer Hom. “I’m not even sure why he was here.”
Los Angeles filmmaker Mae Ryan captured a rare glimpse of the artists and engineers preparing Friday’s drawings surrounded by piles of toys and a pair of dog in their Mountain View, California office.
“You never know what you are going to get,” says Ryan Germick, who leads the doodle team, “and we keep making more and more of these things.”