What it's like to Doodle for Google

To celebrate Althea Gibson's 87th birthday, Google Doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino made an animation to sit atop the tech giant's homepage. She talked us through the process.

When Google's co-founders went to the Burning Man music festival back in August of 1998, they changed the Google logo on their homepage while they were gone.

They put a little Burning Man stick figure behind one of the "o"s in Google. It was the first Google Doodle.

Today, Google has a whole team of employees who design Doodles commemorating birthdays, big events, anniversaries, and more.

Sophia Foster-Dimino, an illustrator and Google Doodler based in San Francisco, told host David Gura about the process.

"For the first several years that doodles were sort of an operation, we did doodles that were more freebies, like Leonardo DaVinci or Einstein, people that everyone has heard of," says Foster-Dimino. "As time has gone on, we have sort of wanted to broaden our reach. We know that in the course of history, certain people aren’t as well remembered as they should be. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to dig a little deeper, try and find people that have maybe fallen out of the spotlight and let them share the stage with these other famous individuals that we celebrate."

Her latest doodle commemorates Althea Gibson’s 87th birthday. Gibson was the first African-American athlete of either gender to cross the color line of international tennis. Foster-Dimino says she didn’t know who Gibson was when she was assigned to create the doodle. So, she researched by reading Gibson’s autobiography and watching videos of her playing tennis at Wimbledon and at the U.S Nationals.

A Doodle in its early concept stages.

"It’s really a good idea to immerse yourself in the source material and try to pick out the things that will be recognizable to those who are already fans to the person and intriguing to those who are not familiar with them," says Foster-Dimino.

Foster-Dimino says she wanted to illustrate Gibson’s talent and strengths on the field.

A rejected Doodle idea.

"Although the option was on the table, to just do a simple portrait, we really wanted to show her grace and elegance on the field, which captivate anyone watching her play, which was why I pitched my boss to do an animation," says Foster-Dimino.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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