Whenever you launch Google.com, you find a graceful and colorful logo, but ten years ago, it was different. In the late 1990s, no one would imagine the Google logo would be as it is now.
How much has the Google logo changed over the years? And why? Read on to find out as this post digs into the history of the Google logo, timeline, and facts.
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The Google Logo is a text logo – also known as a wordmark. It doesn’t feature an icon or anything other than the letters “Google.”
The logo stands out due to its colors and font style. Each letter of the word has a different color.
As you can see from the picture above, the “G” is blue, the first “o” is red, the second “o” is yellow, the “g” is blue, the “l” is green, and the “e” is red.
It primarily features the primary colors – red, yellow, and blue – except the green “l.” The use of green, according to Ruth Kedar, the logo designer, commemorates the fact that Google doesn’t follow the rules.
This simple logo is applauded as an example of modernity and sophistication. Most logos at the time Google launched were abstract (a logo featuring a symbol or image). So, you might wonder why Google did not use one.
The founders had always wanted a “logotype” design, rather than just a logo from the onset.
However, many people believe the logo was influenced by the Yahoo logo, which is also a text logo. Yahoo was already a popular web portal at the time.
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Check out the history and timeline of the Google logo below – from 1996 to date:
Google was founded officially in 1998. Before then, the search engine created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin was called “BackRub.”
Larry Page and Sergey Brin named their search algorithm “BackRub” because it ranks websites according to how many backlinks they have. This ranking algorithm is still in use today.
Also, the search algorithm was still in its developing stage, hence many internet users don’t know about BackRub. The text on the BackRub website read, “Currently we are developing techniques to improve web search engines.”
The BackRub name and logo would stick around from 1996 until 1997, when a Stanford student, Sean Anderson, suggested the name “googolplex.”
Page went with a shorter version, “googol,” and ultimately, “google” from a spelling error of the intended name. They introduced the new name in September 1997, and it was time for a new logo.
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The first logo to feature the word “Google” was in use from September 1997 to September 1998.
Clearly, it’s the foundation of the sophisticated Google logo we have today. As it is today, the logo appears at the center of the Google website.
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At the time, Google wasn’t a global platform. It was hosted on Stanford’s website, and early users were mostly students from the Stanford campus. They could either “Search Stanford” or “Search The Web.”
The Google web crawler consumed about half of Stanford’s website bandwidth. It even crashed the internet connection on at least one occasion.
When the crawler hit over 10,000 queries per day in mid-1998, Larry and Sergey knew it was time to leave Stanford’s servers.
They received a check of $100,000 from Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in August 1998.
In September 1998, they officially registered Google as a company, and, again, it was time for a new logo.
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In 1998, Google made a lot of changes to its logo. It’s perhaps the most significant year in its logo’s history. The first logo launched in September 1998 was this:
The logo was made by Sergey Brin using GIMP, the free image editor. It’s a Baskerville Bold logotype with different color combinations from what we have today. The most noticeable is the green “G.”
The initial domain for the Google web crawler was google.stanford.edu and z.stanford.edu; when it was on Stanford’s servers.
While the “google.com” domain was registered in 1997, it wasn’t until 1998 that the search engine would move to the new site.
As is usually the case with new technologies, Google released the beta version of its website on October 29 1998 with this logo:
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Source: Google Doodles Archive
Here is a live imitation of the October 29, 1998 Google website before its logo was changed a day later.
On October 30, 1998, the logo changed to this:
It’s very similar to the first “non-beta” logo except for the exclamation mark at the end and the color of the “G.” The latter changed from green to blue, and this color arrangement is still applicable today.
Other differences from the earlier logo include the more rounded letters and increased shadow.
The Google logo is said to be a replica of the Yahoo logo due to the added exclamation mark. In fact, many people believe that the Yahoo logo influenced the Google logo, as illustrated below.
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Source: Wayback Machine
Nevertheless, Google would drop the exclamation mark later, in 1999.
1998 also saw the introduction of the first Google Doodle in August. The doodle celebrated Burning Man – “an event focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance held annually in the western United States.”
It features the Burning Man icon behind the second “o,” as shown below:
Source: Google Doodles Archive
Unlike the doodles we have today, it was neither animated nor hyperlinked. It was just an image, and so were subsequent doodles until 2010.
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In May 1999, Google changed its logo to this:
Ruth Kedar, a Stanford Art professor at the time, designed the logo. The key differences between the 1998 and 1999 logos are the font type, exclamation mark removal, and the darker shadow.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin approached different designers to help them create a logo. Ruth Kedar’s design was chosen for three reasons: the Catull typeface, unique visual expression, and playfulness.
Ruth Kedar used the Catull font because it met her requirement of something traditional and yet current. The idea of sticking with the primary colors was to make the website appear friendly.
According to Ruth, people were scared of interacting with the internet at the time, believing that a wrong click would blow up their computer.
This logo would serve as the base Google logo from 1999 to 2015, making it the longest Google has used yet. It’s the logo most people know Google for.
However, there were some changes, although minor, in 2010 and 2013.
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In 2010, Google decided to make the 1999 logo lighter in appearance, and this was the result:
The text colors now have brighter tones, and most notably, the yellow of the second “o” now has a different hue, almost an orange.
Also, the new design reduced the projected shadow, and the letters appeared more flattened. The logo maintained the Catull font and the color arrangement.
Google first previewed this new logo in November 2009, but the official launch was in May 2010.
It was also in 2010 that Google introduced the first animated doodle. The doodle, displayed on January 4th, honored Sir Isaac Newton by featuring apples falling from a tree – a depiction of how Newton discovered gravity.
Source: Google Doodles Archive
Afterward, on May 21, 2010, Google introduced the first interactive doodle. The doodle celebrated the maze action video game Pac-Man on its 30th anniversary.
Source: Google Doodles Archive
The interactive doodle featured Pac-Man’s original game logic, graphics, and even sounds.
Marcin Wichary, who wrote the press release for the doodle, described it as the “first-ever playable Google doodle.” It was on display for two days.
From September 2013 to September 2015, this was the Google logo:
Google needed to make its logo more convenient and responsive for the different phones that were being released. Also, it had a two-dimensional effect to match Google’s new products.
They previewed the logo a week before its official launch on September 19.
It’s similar to the 2010 logo because it kept the font and color arrangement. However, the logo became flat as they removed the shadows and bevels.
It became more minimalistic, brighter, and easy on the eye. There were also a few tweaks to the typography.
The new design featured more straightened letters, and the most noticeable difference in typography is the horizontal bar on the “e.”
The Google 2013 logo was one of the forerunners of the Material Design system. Google would later release the Android-oriented design language in 2014.
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Google introduced its present logo in 2015. It was the first main change since 1999 and the best logo yet.
Google stated in its press release that the new logo was to make the Google magic work even on the tiniest screens.
Also, Google released the “G” icon and Google dots as part of the logo family in 2015.
The new logo featured an entirely new font, Product Sans. It’s a sans-serif font type that makes the logo noticeably different from the previous one that used Catull, a serif font type.
Unlike the previous logo with a double-story “g,” the new one had a single-story “g.” In other words, the descender was no longer connecting.
Also, the second “o” was no longer slightly bent but straight. However, the “e” was still tilted, evidencing that Google was, and still is, an eccentric company.
There was also a slight change to the green, yellow, and red hues, making them better contrast with one another.
You’ve seen how the Google logo changed from BackRub to the now ubiquitous and unmistakable wordmark.
Here are some facts about the logo that’ll interest you:
The Google logo features four colors: blue, red, yellow, and green. They are all primary colors, except for green. As mentioned before, green is there because Google doesn’t follow the rules.
While designing the Google logo, they needed to make it appear playful. It was for the website to appear friendly to users, as not many people understood how to operate the internet in the late 1990s.
Google went with the primary colors because they are the most common. There’s no exact reason why Google used two blue, two red, one yellow, and one green.
Obviously, the designer was alternating the primary colors, starting with blue. Hence, you have blue, red, yellow, and blue again.
If Google “followed the rules,” the “l” would be red, and then the “e” yellow. Instead, the “l” got a secondary color, and the “e” got the following primary color after blue, red.
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The 2015 Google logo came with a new font, and it was one of the most talked-about features of the logo. The font is Product Sans, a geometric sans-serif typeface.
Google created Product Sans for branding purposes. Hence, before 2015, it was non-existent.
The closest font to Product Sans is Futura, released in 1927. It’s unarguable that Futura influenced the contemporary Google font.
This isn’t surprising since Futura is considered a groundbreaking font and an ancestor to many current fonts.
The main difference between both fonts is that Futura features a single-story “a,” while Product Sans features a double-story “a.”
Although Product Sans became popular with the 2015 Google logo, the font was earlier used for designing the logo for Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Google currently uses the “G” favicon, released in 2015 with the current logo and Google Dots. It’s simply the letter “G,” featuring each of the four Google colors.
The letters are in the Google Sans typeface (an optimized version of the Product Sans font).
Like the Google logo, the Google favicon has experienced some changes over the years.
The earliest Google favicon was a blue “G” on a white background, enclosed in a square with a multi-colored border:
It was the Google favicon from 1999 to 2008. In May 2008, Google introduced a new favicon: a blue “g” on a white background:
It was slightly adjusted to create a 3D effect with a white outline and shadows:
In less than a year, in January 2009, Google changed its favicon to a left-aligned white “g” on a multi-colored background (red, yellow, blue, and green):
André Resende, a student at the University of Campinas in Brazil, is credited for this design. Google accepted his favicon submission out of many in the June 2008 favicon contest.
Google also used an alternate version of the favicon on some of its products. This version, a left-aligned white “g” on a blue background, was classic.
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It would serve as inspiration for the next Google favicon released in 2012:
The “g” was now aligned to the center while maintaining the white text color and blue background. However, the 2012 favicon is also an invert of the 2008 favicon.
In 2013, the blue background color became lighter following the logo change. Then, in 2015, Google released its current logo family, and the “G” icon became the new favicon.
Google is now more than a search engine. Google products like Chrome, Assistant, Play Store, Gmail, Calendar, Cloud, Drive, and Meet, to name a few, have different logos.
While the logos are different, a feature the majority of them share is color. Google maintains the blue-red-yellow-green color scheme on most products, especially the most popular ones.
Take the Google Chrome logo, for example:
Google has maintained the same color scheme since the first logo in 2008:
The same applies to Gmail, whose first logo in 2004 was an imitation of the Google logo at the time:
The current Gmail logo is simply a depiction of a mail, as the letter “M” in Google colors:
Nevertheless, some Google products’ logos don’t have the four Google colors. Instead, they feature just one, two, or three of them.
An example is the Google Docs logo that features just the blue color:
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Another example is the Google Ads logo that features all but red:
When you launch Google, sometimes, instead of the colorful logo, you may see a graphical or animated logo. These are Google Doodles.
Google Doodles are “temporary alterations” of the Google logo to celebrate or recognize events, activities, people, places, or achievements, among other things.
The first Google Doodle, as stated earlier, was to celebrate the Burning Man event in 1998.
Doodles usually appear as the Google logo for a day. However, they can replace the Google logo for a prolonged period.
An instance would be during the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament. The colorful Google logo was not on display for the 32 days the competition lasted.
Instead, Google featured different doodles each day, celebrating the various different countries. Such a display is called a “Doodle series.”
Here’s the animated doodle for the final game between France and Croatia:
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GIF Image source: Google Doodles Archive
Notably, Google Doodles are geo-sensitive. A Doodle may celebrate events specific to a particular country, and, as a result, be visible to only Google users in that country.
Some days, you’ll find a colorless logo on Google’s homepage. The colorless logo is a mourning logo and usually appears when there’s a major tragedy.
In such a situation, it could be on display for days.
The colorless logo appeared for the first time in 2010 in Google Poland following the plane crash that killed 96 people, including the Polish President, Lech Kaczyński.
It was also the Google logo in China following the 2010 Yushu earthquake that killed thousands.
Google used the colorless logo to commemorate George Bush’s passing in 2018 and to mark Memorial Day in 2019 in the United States.
There’s no hidden meaning behind the Google logo. This is because the company always wanted a wordmark logo design.
Furthermore, they decided to go with multi-colors to make the website appear playful.
Adding a secondary color (green) to primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) shows that Google is unconventional, and the company doesn’t play by the rules.
The word “google” is a misspelling of the word “googol,” which is a shortened form of the word “googolplex.” Before that, the search crawler was called “BackRub.”
A Googolplex is the equivalent of ten raised to the power of a googol. In turn, a googol is the equivalent of ten raised to the power of a hundred. Ultimately, a googolplex refers to an unimaginably large number.
It seems fitting that Larry Page and Sergey Brin chose the term “googol” for their search engine, which aimed to gather an enormous amount of information, as it does today.
During the domain registration process, the spelling was accidentally changed from “googol” to “google.”
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The first logo to feature the word “Google” appeared in 1997. It took the company eighteen years to come up with the current logo.
Many designers contributed to the development of the Google logo over the years, but the most notable of them is Ruth Kedar, who designed the 1999 logo.
While the logo has evolved over the years, it has maintained the blue-red-yellow-green color scheme for the most part.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing.
Tom has been a full-time internet marketer for two decades now, earning millions of dollars while living life on his own terms. Along the way, he’s also coached thousands of other people to success.