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  • Google doodler - Sketch artist Dennis Hwang achieves cult status
    March 12, 2005 Chicago Tribune.
    The Hartford Courant

    On Valentine's Day, there were flowers in the first O, with ribbon going through the hoop of the G.

    For New Year's Day, the numbers 2005 were set behind the word Google.

    On Election Day, the second O was checked.

    And in honor of Ray Charles' birthday on Sept. 23, 2004, an image of the singer replaced the first O.

    These are the creations of Google sketch artist Dennis Hwang, whose work is seen by millions every time he exhibits on the Internet search engine. The 26-year-old Google webmaster calls his drawings doodles.

    Since 2000, Hwang has marked events and holidays--American and international--with drawings on, around and through the Google icon on the site's home page.

    That's five Valentine's Days. Four Christmases. Four 4ths of July. Four Thanksgivings. The Olympics. The holidays repeat each year; Hwang's drawings never do.

    His work has reached cult status. There are Web sites and blogs devoted to Hwang and his work. When he began rendering the doodles regularly, fans waited to see what he'd come up with next. On the blog Ryan's Rant (www.ryanwaddell.com), the doodles were displayed every time they were updated for those who missed them. Hwang spoke recently about his doodles and how he got an ideal job.

    Most people have to choose among their interests. How did you get such a perfect job that meshes computers and art? I had an internship with Google in college. I was given the task of helping with maintenance of the Web site. I was an assistant webmaster. Before I joined Google, [founders] Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were already dabbling with holiday logos. ... When I joined, one of my managers knew I was studying art, and they said I should give it a shot. Since then, I've been doing it solo.

    Are you constantly reading newspapers to keep up with current events and holidays? How far I work in advance depends. Sometimes, we react really quickly to current events. When the Mars Rover landed, I created a logo in less than 24 hours. ... We want to draw as many international ones as possible. For all of the international markets, if there's a special holiday, we want to commemorate it. Most of the time, it only shows up on the international Google domain which it's in. That's why the U.S. population doesn't see that. ... I do quite a bit of research using Google. Users really appreciate it because it feels like Google is tied to their daily lives.

    Do you get suggestions from Google users? I get quite a lot of suggestions from users. We're really open to user feedback and having ideas sent to us. Mostly it's through e-mail, but sometimes I get mailed letters. They take this very personally.

    How do you decide on the domain of the drawings? Mostly the art is in the letters. I like to have a design that interacts with letters. I find that a bit more interesting.

    Do you have favorite doodles? I have several favorites. Usually, artists' birthdays are the ones I spend the most effort on, like the Monet birthday.

    How difficult is it to reinvent recurring holidays? It's definitely a challenge, but it's one I look forward to. I've been doing this for quite a while and need to come up with fresh ideas every year. There's only so many ways to draw a turkey or a pumpkin.