Yesterday morning, millions of people logged onto the Google homepage and saw a newly designed Google logo in the shape of a guitar to honor Les Paul on what would have been his 96th birthday. They've been creating these Google doodles for a decade – usually honoring holidays and special anniversaries – but this one was different. Users could drag their cursor over the guitar strings and actually play songs, and even record their work for posterity. Within hours of the posting, users had posted videos of themselves playing "Stairway To Heaven," "Hey Jude" and many other songs. "We were just overwhelmed with the positive response," Ryan Germick, the Google Team Lead behind the project, tells Rolling Stone. "People just took it and ran with it."
The guitar chords you hear actually began with Google's Creative Lab Designer Alexander Chen's own Les Paul guitar. "I basically just played 20 or 30 notes and then chose the ones that made sense for the doodle," says Chen. "I specifically chose G because that was the first set of chords that I learned on the guitar and that was the one most people learn. I thought that would be a fun way to have a sort of beginner-style guitar entry point."
Chen was well equipped to help create the Doodle: he's released a series of albums with the projects Boy in Static and Consulate General. "It's indie pop with some sort of experimental shoegaze-y noise layers," he says. "I've opened for bands at some pretty big venues, like Irving Plaza. But I've sort of switched gears and now do more of this music and art intersection instead of the normal recording of albums."
Google's entire design team was thrilled by the creative ways in which people used the Doodle. "Some of the most unexpected uses are the ones that delight us the most," says Chen. "We saw a YouTube video where people brought three computers and were playing as a trio. We didn't totally anticipate that. It's just kind of neat to see people giving each other music lessons all over the Internet."
The Doodle is going to come down this weekend, but it probably isn't going away forever. "Our interactive Pacman Doodle from last year was so popular we kept it alive at google.com/pacman," says Germick. "Our engineers are working on a way to keep the guitar Doodle alive. I think it will continue to see life."