Will Google's New Logo Make Waves? Ask the Israeli Who Designed the Original

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Last Tuesday morning, the world’s most popular search engine, Google, launched its new home page.

The giant multinational corporation presented its new logo to users by means of entertaining animation. This was actually the sixth time Google has altered its official logo, but it was the biggest change since 1999.

Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met as graduate students in computer science at Stanford University. That year they met Ruth Kedar, a Brazilian-Israeli-American designer. Kedar, who was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1955, immigrated to Israel when she was a child; she went on to study architecture at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, graduating in 1979.

After deciding not to work as an architect, Kedar moved to California in 1985 and studied completed her master's degree in that field at Stanford; her thesis was on playing card design.

Kedar met Brin and Page while serving as a consultant art professor at the university; she taught design in its art department from 1988-99. The two asked her to present them with some possible designs for a simple logo and website. The design they selected from the options made its debut in May, 1999.

“From the outset, it was clear to us that the name of company had to stand at the center of the logo,” Kedar told Haaretz in an interview a few years ago. “It must be remembered that at the time, many people were afraid to use the Internet, and it was important to broadcast something user-friendly both on the home page and in the logo. Something simple, that you wouldn't be scared of, something catchy and full of life.”

Now, in another interview with Kedar, we asked whether the new logo, which preserves most of the original principles of design, will succeed.

“It’s too early to know if the new logo is a success,” she answered. “Google as a global brand has responsibility for determining whether its present visual design matches the company’s vision and answers the need of the developing brand. The success of the logo depends on providing answers to these questions, and whether the logo meets these tests over time.”

The changes were apparently made mostly for technological reasons. The company wants to adapt its products to suit a wide range of devices and changing technologies, especially mobile ones, while keeping a consistent style and design – and not only on the traditional website home page featured on PCs. The new logo, Google says, is flexible and can be used in small spaces, even on the tiniest screens; in general, it will now be easier and faster to use Google on low bandwidth connections.

One of the changes that stands out in the new logo is the use of a different font. The original Google logo had an old-style serif font (based on the Catull typeface), while the new geometric sans serif font is reminiscent of the very common Helvetica font.

Google's original logo, top, and its new one. 'There are quite a few differences,' says Kedar.Credit: (Courtesy)

The traditional sequence of colors – blue-red-yellow-blue-green-red – has been preserved, as well as the size ratio between the capital G and the rest of the letters. Google has also now launched a smaller icon-like logo, known as a favicon, in the form of only the capital G, but containing all four of the colors of the company’s traditional palette.

The new logo was designed by an in-house team at Google; the company has not publicized the names of the artists involved.

The times they are a-changin'

It is not a surprise that Google took so long to make major changes in its logo. Many large corporations rarely make such changes, even during periods that span decades, and when they do make alterations they are minimal.

Ruth Kedar.Credit: Limor Edrey

Kedar: “It is always a risk when an established and well-known brand decides to move into new territory. No force in the world is stronger than the power of inertia, and people do not always accept changes immediately."

She added, “Think, for example, of Bob Dylan going electric onstage in the 1960s. He drew boos, but stuck with his vision as a singer and continued to grow and develop a brilliant career.”

Would you have designed the new logo differently?

“It is second nature, or maybe first, for designers to restart the thinking process [of another designer] from their own unique point of view. But the design process is always a dialogue between the designer and customer, so even if I may have done it differently, the result of such a dialogue is something that remains only in the imagination."

The new logo is very similar to the original.

“It has preserved many characteristics that were in the original logo including the playfulness and colorfulness, and also some of the formative characteristics, such as the use of the letter ‘e’ in a slanted fashion. True, in that split second when you first look at the logo you feel there is a great deal of resemblance to the original, but a deeper look reveals that there are quite a few differences.”

Google itself has said the new logo “maintains the multi-colored playfulness and rotated ‘e’ of our previous mark — a reminder that we’ll always be a bit unconventional.”

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