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Those Special Google Logos, Sliced & Diced, Over The Years

I’ve been working on a project to classify all the special logos that Google has done over the years. Crazy? Perhaps a bit, but it’s interesting to see what Google has honored with special logos and the great increase in them recently. Besides, I like to organize things. Below, how Google’s special logos have evolved, including tips on which occupation to pursue if you hope to have your birthday immortalized by Google.

My project’s not done yet, but I presented some early findings at Ignite: SMX West in March. For those unfamiliar with Ignite, you have 5 minutes to present 20 slides on a particular topic. You can watch the video of my presentation at the end of this post, but I’ve also summarized my presentation in text, as well.

If you don’t recognize some of the logos below, that’s because in recent years, Google has targeted some logos to specific countries. Other ones are shown worldwide.

1998: First Doodle

In this year, the first ever Google “Doodle” appeared. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were heading off to Burning Man, and they wanted a way to effectively say they’d gone fishing. So the logo above was posted.

Most Celebrated Holiday: US Thanksgiving

Also that year, the first holiday was celebrated: Thanksgiving in the United States. It has been celebrated ever since, making it the most celebrated holiday by a Google logo. The 1998 logo is shown above, followed by some from other years.

Below, the most celebrated holidays as of March 2010:

US Thanksgiving leads, at the time I compiled these in March 2010, with 12 recognitions. Christmas / Holidays follow at 11, tied with Halloween. After that, Bastille Day, the 4th of July, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and New Year’s all came in at 10 recognitions.

2000: Multiday Logos

This year marked the first “multiday” logos, a series of logos that ran over consecutive days. In May, Google did a strange series of aliens for no particular reason, then a set for the Summer Olympics in Sydney (11 logos in total) and a series for the 4th of July.

Non-US Holidays

Also in 2000, the first national holidays celebrated outside the US got logos, France’s Bastille Day and Japan’s Shichi-go-san. St. Patrick’s Day was also honored for the first time, though ironically the logo was only shown in the US, not in Ireland.

This year also saw Mother’s Day get honored for the first time (shown globally in May, even though some countries like the UK celebrate it in other months), as well asĀ  Father’s Day.

2001: More National Days

In 2001, Google celebrated more national days, as shown above. The USA’s 4th Of July continued to be recognized, along with France’s Bastille Day. Canada, Switzerland and South Korea all gained logos for their special days — as did the entire Earth for Earth Day. In addition, the Holi Festival in India and Chinese New Year were recognized.

Birthday Celebrations Begin

The first birthday was also celebrated in 2001, that of artist Claude Monet, shown above. Since then, many birthdays have been recognized. In general, Google is more likely to recognize the birthdays of artists, scientists and musicians than other occupations. Some other examples appear above, below Monet’s logo.

2002: Dilbert Does Google

In 2002, Google’s logo got a visit from well-known cartoon character Dilbert, when Scott Adams agreed to do a series.

2003: Anniversaries

In 2003, Google got crazy for anniversaries for the first time, celebrating the discovery of DNA and flight. Since then, special anniversary logos have continued, though sometimes the particular anniversary dates recognized are odd. I mean, the 36th anniversary of the lunar landing or the 48th anniversary of the invention of the laser? Who recognizes such oddball numbers?

2004: Logos … In … Space!

in 2004, Google recognized a number of space-related events this year: the Spirit rover on Mars, the transit of Venus (its shadow) across the Sun and the flight of SpaceShipOne.

2005-2007: Same Old, Same Old

From 2005 through 2007, Google logos had little surprises. Sporting events like the World Cup and the Six Nations rugby tournament were recognized, as were national days, birthdays and even April Fool’s (the toilet logo, for Google’s TiSP joke). But there was nothing out of the ordinary, compared to what had been done before.

2008: Celebrate Everything

From 2008 onward, Google went logo crazy. The number of special logos that appeared worldwide on Google, or on special country-specific editions of Google, skyrocketed. Events like Spain’s Tomato Festival got logos, as well as Poland’s Day Of Trees.

2008: Independence Day For Everyone!

One way the logo count increased was that Google suddenly did national day logos for many countries in 2008, especially for Central and South American countries.

Cool Stuff

2008 also saw some pretty cool logos, including one made of Lego (for Lego’s 50th anniversary) and another to celebrate the Large Hadron Collider’s first test, which created the FlashForward we all experienced. And then forgot through a conspiracy that few are brave enough to discuss.

Heck, even Queen Elizabeth II got a special logo, to recognize her visit to Google London:

Hey, maybe someday the Queen will return the favor and make that logo into a stamp. Her image on a stamp is all that’s needed to make it legal, so the logo’s ready to go!

2009: Commemorative Stamps Or Google Logos

Speaking of stamps, a remarkable twist happened in 2009, when several logos almost resembled commemorative stamps. Or the Cartoon Network. Or both. Everything from Sesame Street to Dr. Seuss to The Very Hungry Caterpillar picture book and more were recognized.

Logos Are More Than Fun

Think it’s all fun and games with Google’s special logos? Think again. Each time a special logo runs, thousands of people click on them — which generates more searches. So far, Google’s never given any indication that this helps the bottom line. But maybe some day, I’ll be able to dig into whether the special logos have contributed noticeably to query growth over time.

To date, Google’s only promoted one of its own products with a logo — that for special iGoogle themes, in 2008. A series of mysterious logos last year in honor of H.G. Welles attracted plenty of press attention.

Trivia: Only Non-Latin Alphabet Doodles

So far, Google’s only had three special logos that have spelled out Google in non-Latin alphabets. Shown from top to bottom above, there was Braille in 2006, then a barcode logo and Morse Code one in 2009.

Trivia: Only Fictional Birthdays

Of the many birthdays Google has celebrated, only two have been for fictional characters. Actually, only one — for Astro Boy’s 5th birthday. Paddington Bear’s special 50th “birthday” logo was really for the anniversary of the first Paddington Bear story.

Looking For More?

For some background on how Google Doodles come about, CBS News had a nice article last month.

Anyone can review Google’s past logos in the Google Logo archives it maintains. Google also provides some history and stats about Google Doodles.

Here on Search Engine Land, our own Google: Logos category also archives the appearance of some prominent logos, over time.

I’ll be doing my own look in the future at the Google Doodle process. Eventually, I also hope to publish even more detailed stats and bring things up to date through, well, whatever the current date is. Stay tuned.

This Article — In Video!

Below is my Ignite SMX West talk on the subject:

There were a lot of other great search-related presentations at Ignite SMX West — I’ll be doing a future blog post next week to spotlight them all. But no need to wait. You can watch them all here.


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