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A Chat with the Designer of the Google Logo

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Ruth Kedar of KedarDesigns.com designed the Google logo in the version that became famous around the world (the original tries at designing the logo were by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, reportedly, using the Gimp software). I asked Ruth how the Google logo design came about originally, and here’s her reply.

Google Logo

I was teaching design at Stanford University in 1999 when I was introduced to Larry Page and Sergei Brin by a mutual friend at Stanford. They were looking at designers to design their logo and website and I was asked to present them with some preliminary design ideas. They liked my approach and design style and I was hired to design both.

Google wanted to create a unique logo that would clearly differentiate them from the other search players at the time (Yahoo, Excite, HotBot, LookSmart and Lycos), as well as embody their unique vision.
These other players were commercial portals first, and search engines second. Google wanted to convey that it was as a search provider first and foremost. It offered fast, comprehensive, and above all trustworthy search results. It was innovative, algorithmically complex yet incredibly simple to use. Furthermore, Google as a brand should repudiate all things corporate, conventional or complacent.

Based on these guidelines there were many design iterations, and many directions were explored. At every meeting we managed to better reconcile the vision and its visual expression leading to the final design.

In the end this particular logo was selected because it reached its goal in many levels:

  • It was playful and deceptively simple. The design subtle as to look almost non-designed, the reading effortless. The colors evoke memories of child play, but deftly stray from the color wheel strictures so as to hint to the inherent element of serendipity creeping into any search results page and the irreverance and boldness of the “I am feeling lucky” link. The texture and shading of each letter is done in an unobtrusive way resulting in lifting it from the page while giving it both weight and lightness. It is solid but there is also an ethereal quality to it.
  • Times-Roman was the font of choice for the web at that time, while sans-serif fonts were the darling of the printed world. I wanted the readability of a serifed font, but looked for a typeface that had the same qualities we were looking for – subtly sophisticated, but with some humor and irreverence . The chosen typeface is a based on Catull, an old style serif typeface. Catull borrows elements from traditional writing instruments such as the quill and the chisel with a modern twist. Search, by nature, is an activity that requires we look into the past. Therefore Catull’s historical ties seemed appropriate, as did the bridging between the old analog world and the new emerging digital era.
  • Visually, there were two main schools of thought at the time: those wanting to emulate the conventional non-web giants such as Sun and SGI (bold all-caps sans-serifed fonts), and those who viewed the irreverence of Yahoo’s non-designed approach as “the look" for the new medium. This design managed to break with the existing conventions landing Google with the unique visual expression it was looking for.

Google today is a much more complex entity – it has evolved and grown beyond our wildest imagination – who knew that it would become one of the most ubiquitous and recognized brands worldwide and that google would be a noun and a verb?

It gives me great pleasure that the design has transcended both its time and original needs, being as relevant today as it was then. Furthermore, it has become the canvas upon which Dennis Hwang’s Google Doodles can flourish. :)

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A Chat with the Designer of the Google Logo
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