A Look Back: The Google Logo

Posted September 2, 2015, under Gee Whillickers!

Google is famous for having fun with its logo: Their “Google Doodles” are the source of much Internet joy. But very recently, they made a more significant change.

This isn’t the first time Google’s revamped their logo and, as they note in their announcement, it won’t be the last. But this news puts us on an interesting trail, providing a chance to look at how — and sometimes why — advertising and branding changes over the years. It’s also worth noting that this is a much more dramatic change than earlier iterations.

In the case of Google, functionality is key. They’re Google. It’s not enough to be on the bleeding edge of technology; they have to be the ones blazing trails and creating standards.

Today, scalability is a big deal. People access the web using devices ranging in size to six-foot-wide projection screens to three-inch-diameter smartwatch screens.

While Google’s previous logo (shown below) may have seemed simple enough, it had serifs and varying stroke thickness in the letters.

When you’re viewing that on a tiny screen, details are lost and appearance suffers. It’s one of the many things that designers and companies have to consider in the current design environment. That’s why the new logo uses a sans-serif font, and there is no variation to the stroke thickness.

Retrospective

Did you know that Google isn’t the service’s original name? In 1996, when the company — and more importantly, the search engine software — was in its infancy, the working title was “Back Rub.”

Now we’re imagining some egotistical jerk yelling, “Don’t you know who I am? Back Rub me!”

They tried some other iterations of the logo in the next few years, before hiring a professional designer in 1999.

She created several options before they eventually settled on the version that the company would use for 11 years.

The 1999 Concepts

1999-2010

2010-2013

2013-2015

It’s interesting to note that the last two versions had much shorter lifespans, probably driven by technological changes. By 2010, so many people were using smartphones to access the Internet — sometimes as their only Internet portal — that the medium could not be ignored. The logo had to be simplified, twice, to better accommodate smartphone users.

The simplification is also a direct stylistic contrast to the design excesses of the late ’90s and early ’00s (as we covered in much greater depth a few years ago).

Back to the Present

Now, of course, the Google logo has fully embraced its web dominance; becoming something that’s really only possible online: A kinetic, interactive logo.

When Google is processing your request, you get the bouncy dots; when you’re talking to it, it becomes an equalizer. According to this article by Co Design (the first, most in-depth report on the subject), this isn’t just for the pretty. This is interactive design expressly created to help people easily understand what’s going on — even, say, when they’re trying to search directions while driving in the worst Los Angeles traffic.

We guess because it’s going to be a while until Google’s self-driving cars get much traction outside of Mountain View.


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