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BEST OF: 15 hits from the Google Doodle collection

Plus, the 14-year history of Google doodling.

FREDDIE MERCURY, ALBERT Einstein and Louis Braille are among those who have taken over Google’s homepage for a day through one of the company’s now-famous doodles.

The search engine often decides to liven up its logo to celebrate holidays, special events, famous people or scientific discoveries. The latest doodle to be shown in Ireland – an animated wave to remember German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz – reminded us how far the team of doodlers have come since the very first one in 1998.

Not really born as a corporate idea, Google founders Larry and Sergey came up with the concept in August 1998 before they attended the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stickman drawing behind the second ‘o’ in Google to indicate they were ‘out of the office’.

The idea spiralled from there and the pair started to play around with the logo during the next 12 months. It was used to mark holidays in America, including Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In 2000, the first doodler was hired. Then-intern Dennis Hwang was asked to produce a doodle for Bastille Day and it was so well received the position of chief doodler was created for him. There is now a whole team of doodlers (engineers and illustrators) who have made more than 1,000 doodles for Google homepages across the world.

Ireland was one of the first countries to have its National Holiday marked by Google. In 2000, the first St Patrick’s Day doodle landed.

For the first few years, the doodles were quite simple, incorporating one or two extra symbols or changing the colours slightly. However, by 2002, the doodlers started to get a bit more creative with both their subject matter and end product.

Claude Monet was the first individual to be celebrated on the 14 November 2001. Hwang created this homage to the painter on the 161st anniversary of his birth.

From there, Google doodles started to pop up on our homepages more often and for less obvious reasons. We’ve had a look back through the files and have come up with the 15 most memorable ones – for their innovativeness, creativity and subject matter. Do you have another favourite?

1. Most of the early doodles were quite simple. But for Michelangelo‘s 538th birthday, the team broke away completely from Google’s traditional primary colours and the 5 March 2003 marked the start of a more ambitious era for doodling.

2. Sesame Street has had Google’s homepage dedicated to its characters on nine different occasions in various countries around the world. On its 40th anniversary, the first every doodle photo shoot was carried out and on 10 November 2009, we were delighted to find Big Bird, the Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie hanging out on our homepages.

3. The photo shoot moved forward by May 2010 and to celebrate the anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the San Francisco Ballet got involved.

Performing live in front of the camera, the dancers created the G,o, o, g, l and e letters.

4. Shown globally on 4 January 2006, the doodle dedicated to Louis Braille on the anniversary of his birth indicated that Google were going to take the concept further than just playful holiday images.

5. The very first interactive Google Doodle became so popular it now has a permanent home here.

The game was developed by senior designer and developer at Google Marcin Wichary. His dad had been an arcade game and pinball technician in Poland and, unsurprisingly, Pac-Man was his favourite game. He says that the game’s popularity “transcended the geopolitical barriers” of the time. Of his doodle, he said:

PAC-MAN seems like a natural fit for the Google homepage. They’re both deceptively straightforward, carefully hiding their complexity under the hood.

6. On 8 February 2011, writer Jules Verne was celebrated with an adventurous doodle of his fictitious submarine, the Nautilus. Users can still explore 20,000 leagues with a pull of the lever – or by tilting a tablet or smartphone.

7. April Fool’s Day, Google style in 2010.

The name-change appeared in the US only as the Kansas town Topeka renamed itself Google for the day. Google repaid the favour as a prank.

8. The Les Paul doodle on 9 June 2011 became an instant hit with users across the world. To celebrate what would have been the guitarist’s 96th birthday, the search engine’s homepage was turned into an electric guitar for a day.

In just 48 hours, 40 million songs were recorded in the US using the doodle guitar. Those tunes were played back 870,000 times. Here’s our (poor) effort.

9. The first ever live action video doodle was created for Charlie Chaplin on 16 April 2011. The short film includes the whole Doodle team and was shot in California:

10. The Stanislaw Lem doodle on 23 November 2011 is probably the most ambitious to date. The science-fiction writer who sold more than 30 million books earned the doodle on what would have been his 90th birthday and the 60th anniversary of this first book The Astronauts.

Inspired by The Cyberiad, a series of stories about two brilliant ‘constructors’, the doodle team decided to build a small game could actually be played. Missed it? Have a go now.

11. John Lennon was honoured with the very first animated doodle on the 8 October 2010 – the Beatle singer’s birthday.

12. Thanksgiving in 2010 was marked with a special Ina Garten doodle. When clicking on the food images, one of the chef’s recipes would pop up. Interactive and useful!

13. Awwww. This year’s Valentine’s Day got some doodlers to show their ultra-romantic side to the sounds of Tony Bennett’s Cold, Cold Heart.

14. Google loves Lucille Ball

15. On 5 September last year, the genius of Freddie Mercury was recognised by Google on what would have been the rock star’s 65th birthday. Epitomising the front man’s colourful character and stage presence, Google gave us Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Know:

The doodle took four months to create and was accompanied by a blog post by Queen member Brian May.

Related: Radio head: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz gets his own Google Doodle>

Google marks Mercury’s birthday with awesome musical Doodle>

18 strange things Google users search for about famous Irish people>

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