Phil Hoad on the Google Doodle:
It’s not just that the doodle, the corporate-branding equivalent of dress-down Friday, has that naff novelty air about it: all those cute animated Thanksgiving turkeys, faux silent films and puzzle-piece Nietzsches. Or even that, presumably driven in part by Google employees’ hobby horses (“How about Giambattista Tiepolo’s 318th birthday?”), they feel like textbook “wackaging”; the ingratiating, infantilising tone that has been smeared all over marketing for the past decade. It’s that behind the fun is something more pernicious: by weaving historic and cultural milestones into its logo, Google is trying to retroactively brand the whole of human progress – perhaps the very notion of progress – as its own.
No. It’s just presenting an anniversary or significant date in a slightly humorous and creative way. That’s all.
But aren’t Google doodles educational, too, I hear you say. Would many people be thinking about 10th-century mathematician Abu al-Wafa al-Buzjani, and his trigonometrical genius, or the marvels of the Lascaux caves otherwise? Like so much altruistic spiel, that line would be so much easier to swallow without the vein of self-interest, and in this case the shouty visual branding, running through it. A doodle-less homepage might be more boring, but I’d feel more reassured that Google’s aims were more pedagogical than proselytising if it could find a way of flagging up anniversaries and cultural waypoints that didn’t involve splicing them with its own logo.
But that’s the whole point of a Google Doodle, you moron! Google is a commercial company, so of course it uses its logo. What else can it use?
The doodles are a benign version of what the powerful have always done: co-opted the past for marketing purposes, like every second-rate Hellenic strongman claiming he was the new Alexander or Achilles. But then their main line of business wasn’t information. Google stands a better chance of being the gateway to the future if it recognises that no one has ever held a monopoly on progress, and stops trying to rebrand the past.
I think Google will be considered ‘the gateway to the future’ by far more people than the ‘Guardian’, chum. Regardless of what they choose to do with their logo.