If it wasn’t already clear, Google is in the midst of a major makeover.
Last month, the company announced that it would reorganize as Alphabet, a wide ranging “collection of companies” that would include Google, which in the future will narrow its focus to old-school Google products: search engines, ad networks, and apps.
Today, the newly-redefined Google unveiled a new logo, which ditches the typeface it introduced in 1999 for an updated sans-serif font that the company calls Product Sans.
Brian Hoff, a typography wonk and creative director of Brian Hoff Design, helped us parse the message Google is trying to send with its new branding.
“The old serif logo felt a little too serious,” said Hoff. In the old logo, it didn’t “feel like it was intended to flow from one letter to the other.”
The new logo is more modern and playful. The colors, too, are softer shades of Google’s classic primary hues.
“This feels more modern. It’s simplified,” said Hoff. “The letters have this flow to them, a rhythm and a balance.”
The new icon also breaks from the tradition of a logo as a static wordmark. Instead it’s an animated iconography that transforms on the screen as users interact with Google products. If you conduct a voice search, for example, the logo morphs into dots, which ripple like sound waves in response to your voice.
As Google put it, “it doesn’t simply tell you that you’re using Google, but also shows you how Google is working for you.”
“This feels like the evolution of Google as a company,” Hoff said. “They’ve introduced their logo as not just a logo, but a language, a way of understanding Google through design and interaction.”
As for the evolution of Google’s logo itself, here’s what it looked like in the past:
It’s hard to believe that the Google we now know as a dominant force in online search, self-driving cars and everything in between began life as a sensually named Stanford Ph.D. product. But yep, that happened.
In 1997, Google as we know it began taking shape. The logo, though, was still a little, uh, clipart-y.
In 1998 we start to see the beginnings of the Google logo we know now. This one was created by Sergey Brin himself, with help from the free graphics program GIMP.
It was the ’90s! People were going on the internet! Google got an exclamation point!
“Everybody had an exclamation point back then,” Hoff said. “Exclamation point logos are like exclamation points in everyday content. Or like all caps. It’s just unnecessary.”
As Google is growing like gangbusters, the company hires designer Ruth Kedar to help them create a logo to match its newfound prestige. Kedar experiments with a lot of really wacky looking logo concepts, and finally settles on this one. The logo, Kedar said, was intended to be at once unobstrusive but also remarkable for its simplicity.
The classic Google logo gets a little update, with brighter colors and a little less shadow.
Google tweaks its logo again to make it cleaner still, softening angles and ditching the shadow completely.
“It was ambiguous,” said Hoff. “You couldn’t really not like it, but I can’t say I loved. It was just basic.”
Google, it’s been a long, strange trip.