Google logo design exploration courtesy of Ruth Kedar, kedardesigns.com
In the bustling days of the dot-com boom, designer Ruth Kedar received an intriguing request for help.
Two PhD students at Stanford University, where Kedar was an art and product design instructor, were in search of branding and logo design help for their startup. Their burgeoning business? Google.
After meeting with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Kedar says, she was dazzled. “Even at that very early stage, it was clear that their vision was long term. Their intent was to create a company like no other, with no desire to follow preconceived notions on how things were supposed to be done,” she recalls.
Kedar was creating Google’s logo against a backdrop that was “in political and economic turmoil,” she says, noting Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and the Asia financial crisis. But it was also a moment of lasting pop culture moments, like the release of the first “Harry Potter” book and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” at the top of the charts. Still, she says, “instead of being influenced only by what is happening at this moment in time, I preferred to draw from the culture as a whole in order to arrive at a solution that is timeless.”
With a mix of curiosity, patience, and humility, Kedar began to develop a style for the logo that is now recognizable to so many. She asked questions and learned to trust the process. “Be open to serendipity and the unexpected. It will often lead you to new experiences and invaluable insights that will serve you well,” she says.
One of these insights – to stay with the use of primary colors – came to exemplify Google’s
Play was all around: lava lamps, Lego cubes, and primary colors dotted Google’s tiny offices in Palo Alto. The colors reminded her of children’s building blocks, and search represented building blocks of learning. Red, blue, and yellow were jumping off points toward endless possibilities. “Primary colors are the basis from which infinite colors are created,” Kedar says. “By typing a few words [into a search engine], you have access to an infinity of answers.”
At once modern and traditional, Google’s logo was rooted in the fundamental purpose of search. “When you search for something, you are looking for past knowledge so that you can find an idea today for something that you’re going to do in the future,” she says. “The concept of continuity, with search at the very center of it. That is why I searched for a typeface that on one hand evoked the traditions of the past while also being forward looking.”
The font Catull felt perfect, and it was used in the logo until a redesign in 2015. “I loved the nod to traditional typefaces, but at the same time how the lightness, elegance, precision of its lines, and its proportions deviated from traditional serif fonts,” Kedar says. The resulting design, subtly playful and deceptively simple, reflected Google’s underlying mission of making technology accessible and user-friendly to all.
“It’s extremely rare that a brand you’ve been involved with remains a ubiquitous presence in your everyday life, let alone for so long,” she says. “I’ve been very fortunate to witness over the last 25 years how Larry and Sergey’s ideas, ideals, visions, and goals of so long ago not only became a reality, but far supersede their wildest dreams.”
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