When Ryan Germick and his team first saw Sabrina Brady’s submission to the Doodle 4 Google contest in 2013, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
“It was a Doodle about her best day ever, and it was the day her father came back from military duty,” Germick told Business Insider. “It was a really touching Doodle and tears were just pouring out of everyone’s eyes.”
Brady’s design, called “Coming Home,” won the contest that year. It’s that kind of emotional connection Germick looks for in the winning Doodle every year, and what he’ll look for when submissions start pouring in for this year’s contest.
The 2016 Doodle 4 Google contest launches Wednesday at 12 p.m. EST. Contestants can enter online or by mail and the contest is open to all students grades K-12. This year’s theme will be “What I see for the future…”
Germick said the theme is a reflection of what Google tries to be as a company: careful about the impact it has on the future and thoughtful about how Google’s technology can improve people’s lives. The company tries to provide some guidance to motivate and inspire young artists, but doesn’t want to be too prescriptive or limiting in its guidelines.
When it comes time to judge the drawings, Germick said he’s not looking for the best artist in the bunch with the best rendering skills. Instead, he’s looking for the same connection he had with Brady’s drawing in 2013.
“We’re looking for, first and foremost, an emotional resonance,” Germick said. “We’re looking for something that when you see it, before you even think about it, it just hits you and makes you feel something. This is about being able to express your humanity and your individual interests and passions through a piece of artwork.”
But artists do have to keep in mind what will work on the page. Doodles are shrunk down significantly, Germick said, so an extremely detailed piece may not work. While most submissions consist of kids printing out the logo and “going to town” with crayons and markers, he said, sometimes students will create their own version of the logo, like last year’s winner: High school student Akilah Johnson created a Doodle entitled “My Afrocentric Life” where the logo was made out of braided hair.
- Akilah Johnson/Google
The Doodle 4 Google contest has been running every year since 2008, and like year’s past, this year’s winner will receive big prizes:
- A $30,000 college scholarshipA $50,000 Google for Education grant for his or her schoolAn Android tabletA ChromebookA t-shirt printed with the Doodle on itA trip to Google headquarters to meet the Doodle team
The visit from the winner is one of Germick’s favorite parts of the contest.
“All the finalists that we ever meet, these are the quirkiest, coolest, smartest, most creative kids, so it’s just great to meet them,” Germick said. “It gives you hope for the future generation that they persevered through the distractions and the difficulties of childhood to create a really beautiful piece of artwork and get all the way to the top of their group.”
Germick also had a tip for this year’s contestants: Be an individual.
“Don’t worry about looking over the shoulder of your classmate and see what they’re drawing and try to conform,” Germick said. “The point here is to really be yourself and express yourself and share your unique vision.”