Jan. 7 marked the 100th birthday of the late Charles Addams, creator of "The Addams Family" characters for The New Yorker magazine and later a television series for ABC. Ryan Germick said he felt a definite connection.
Germick, a 1998 graduate of Merrillville High School, had "a dream come true" when his employer, Google, received approval from the Addams estate to draw re-creations of the spooky characters, all incorporated into the logo for Google's search website.
Germick works for Google on its Google Doodle Team, imagining and inventing the design for the fun Google logos that grace the website "every so often" to celebrate a holiday or pay tribute to a date.
"For the page with the Addams Family, I worked closely with the people who represent his work to make sure every detail was correct with each of the characters," said Germick, speaking by phone from his home in Mountain View, Calif., near San Francisco.
"For example, originally I was going to have Grandmama included and then I changed it to instead include hairy Cousin Itt," Germick said.
"But when I submitted some samples to the Addams estate, they noticed I included the derby hat on Itt, which they said was added for the TV series but was never a part of an of the original Addams cartoon panel sketches, so I removed it from Itt."
One of Germick's most recent works was for Feb. 29, showcasing a group of lovestruck frogs. Google representative Susan Cadrech described Germick's dual-purpose logo.
"It's the 220th birthday of Italian composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini and a leap year," Cadrech said. "And so, in the grand tradition of opera singing cartoons, we've created an illustration that captures the climactic scene of Rossini's most famous work, 'The Barber of Seville,' as portrayed by a cast of goofy-looking frogs."
The first Google doodle appeared in 1998, intended to be an "out-of-office" message because Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were attending the Burning Man Festival in Nevada.
"Back in 1998 when the first doodle was happening, I would have still been back in Northwest Indiana at the Radisson Hotel graduating with my class from Merrillville High School," Germick said.
"I never would have expected to one day be doing this. But the idea of doodles is such a stroke of genius because they humanize the website."
There are four to six doodle illustrators on the Google staff creating various sketches and drawings, some of which don't immediately appear live on the website. The department has sizable technical staff to transfer the illustrations to the website, and in some cases bring the doodles to animated life, such as a popular Pac-Man logo that could be "played" in honor of the game's 30th anniversary on May 22, 2010.
Because there are Google websites for varying countries and continents, the doodles usually differ for worldwide users.
Germick, the third of five children, said his parents and late grandmother realized his artistic potential at an early age.
"When I was growing up, my grandma would drive me all the way down Ridge Road to attend art classes at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster," he said.
Germick, who has a liberal arts degree, attended Parsons Art School in New York and traveled to Tokyo to live and work for more than a year before being hired full time at Google in 2006.
"And when people ask me for advice now, I always say there are no shortcuts," Germick said. "It's all about working hard, taking things seriously and pushing yourself to follow your dream."