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In this rapid-change information age, corporate and brand logos are no longer the stationary, static symbols we once knew. Much like an octopus, today’s logos are capable of taking on new shapes and colors to fit the situation or campaign and then returning to their standard form. They’re called “living logos” or “live marks.”
Last year, one design agency catapulted that concept a light year forward by creating a logo capable of morphing into any one of over 3.2 million shapes to suit the webpage content.
This two-part article will examine a few of the living logos that have caught my eye, from the ever-fascinating Google Doodle, which changes daily, to the amazing shape-shifting logo that changes right before your very eyes. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to breathe new life into your own logo design.
Living Logo – The Google Doodle
No doubt you’ve seen a Google Doodle — that stylized variation of the standard Google® logo that often pops up on the Google homepage www.google.com for a 24-hour period, and then just as quickly disappears to be replaced by the original logo or yet another variation thereof. It’s less likely that you associated these quirky pieces of art with the term “living logo” or heard the fascinating story about them.
As of this writing, over 1000 Google Doodles have been created to commemorate current events and holidays, or birthdays of famous people. While the actual Doodles are not patented, I was astonished to learn that in 2011, Google successfully patented their concept of altering a logo as a way to entice readers back to the website.
Not only is a different variation of their logo presented each day, but Google actually maintains multiple websites worldwide, and often presents site-specific, country-specific Doodles to honor local people or events.
Google Doodles vary in complexity. Some appear as a flat piece of art, like the very pretty logo that appeared on April 13, 2013 to commemorate 17th century botanic artist Maria Sibylla Merian’s legacy of fine detailed prints. That Doodle, shown below, incorporates plants, insects and even a lizard’s tail to form the letters in the word “Google.”
Then there are 2-dimensional variations, like the Google Doodle created to celebrate Nicolaus Copernicus’ birthday. It features the planets revolving around the sun, and even has a moon passing in front of and around the earth. It cleverly uses the sun to form the letter “o” in the word “Google.”
Google Doodle Guitar Plays Music
One of my favorite Google Doodles appeared on June 9, 2011 to celebrate the achievements of Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar. Like all Google Doodles, this truly exceptional logo spells out the Google name, but does so using electric guitar strings which can actually be “plucked” by running your mouse over them – and the strings emit sound! It’s pictured at the top of this article, and if you haven’t yet given it a try, you really must! Click on it now to be amazed by this very clever play on their standard logo.
Another of my favorite examples of an interactive Google Doodle showed up earlier this year, when Google paid homage to Frank Zamboni, inventor of the Zamboni® ice-resurfacing machine. This fun doodle incorporates action. When launched, it shows a short cartoon of a rider on a Zamboni, clearing the ice, and for real action, you can click the four interactive buttons to drive the machine in any direction you choose. It’s actually much more complex; check it out at www.google.com/logos/2013/zamboni.html
Over the years, a variety of people and events have been showcased, from Dr. Seuss to Dr. Martin Luther King. In case you missed it, Google stirred up quite a controversy this past Easter Sunday, when their Doodle featured a likeness of American labor leader Cesar Chavez rather than highlighting an Easter theme. The internet was absolutely abuzz with people weighing in on the topic, including major media outlets such as Huffington Post, ABCnews.go.com and The Washington Post as well as countless posts on Twitter. With conservatives actually calling for a ban on using Google, all I can add is that as many celebrity and media/entertainment publicists know, very often, it doesn’t matter what’s being said, good or bad, as long as they’re talking about our brand.
More About Google Doodles
As described on their About Google Doodles website, Google Doodles started in 1998 as an inside joke to readers, when the founders decided to play hooky to attend the annual “Burning Man” event, and drew a stick figure behind the “o” in their logo to indicate “out of office.” Over the years, the concept of adapting their logo progressed, and today there is an entire team of Google illustrators crafting these logos.
There is also an annual children’s art competition – Doodle 4 Google – using a crowdsourced competition to design and vote on the best doodle, complete with scholarships to be won. Although entries in the 2013 U.S. competition are no longer being accepted, the voting process for favorite art design begins May 1. For more about this competition, see my earlier blog titled, “Doodle 4 Google Logo Competition for Kids – $100,000 in Prizes” – which includes information on voting, and where and when the winning entries will be displayed.
Lastly, before leaving the topic of Google Doodles, I’ll mention that there’s even a Google Doodles on Demand store where merchandise, from tee shirts to postcards to skateboard decks, can be bought. The site actually exists in 17 languages, with merchandise varying by country. You can get to any of those sites from the U.S. page at http://www.zazzle.com/googledoodles.
More Living Logos – I Love NY
No matter where in the world you live, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of the “I Love NY”® campaign, and have even worn clothing bearing the “I heart NY” logo. This campaign has been around since the 1970s, when Milton Glaser first designed it to promote tourism in NYC; later the campaign was extended to encompass tourism for the entire state of New York. But did you know that following the 9/11 attacks on the NYC, the logo was modified to “I Love NY More Than Ever” and a small black stain was added to the heart?
And, when NY-based Jet Blue airlines needed a logo update, Glaser’s agency came up with an interesting series of logos combining the I Love NY logo with the Jet Blue logo. You can check out those living logos here: http://www.miltonglaser.com/case-studies/490/jet-blue-and-i-love-ny/.
In part II of this series, I’ll continue with more on living logos – in particular focusing on the amazing logo that morphs before your eyes. Meantime, for some interesting reading on logo design, including a very interesting series of live logos created to promote Melbourne, Australia, check out this blog site: http://logodesignerblog.com/tag/rebranding/. (Scroll down for the Melbourne logo article, or pause to read all about Pepsi, Skittles, and more. You may even want to sign up to receive updates to their blog.)
For more about Google’s patent, see Crit: Why Google has oodles of doodles, by John Lloyd.
To search for your favorite Google Doodle, try their Finder.
For more on logo design, see my article “Logo Design Tips and Resources – Particularly for Entrepreneurs & Small Business.”
And just as an unrelated but interesting aside – for a truly living logo – your logo created from living plants, see http://livinglogos.co/what-is-a-living-logo/.
A few legal notes: Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission. The “I Love NY” slogan and logo are registered trademarks of New York State Empire State Development. ZAMBONI is registered in the US, Canada, in the European Community and via the Madrid Protocol member countries, as well as through a number of national registrations.
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