The Washington Post

JOHN VENN: How Google artist Mike Dutton overlapped artistry + concept for birthday Doodle

MIKE DUTTON is one of my favorite Google artists not only for how he brings high creativity to his each project, but also for how he illuminates his path to finished product.

On Monday, Google is celebrating the 180th anniversary of the birth of philosopher John Venn, the logician credited with creating how to diagram the relationships between sets of objects and other elements through overlapping circles.

To pay tribute to the Venn diagram and its British creator, designer Dutton and his project team rendered an interactive home-page Doodle that lets users click together their own combinations of objects.

In shedding light on how he approached this Doodle, “Venn was a no-brainer,” Dutton writes on Google’s Doodle page for Venn. “But finding a way to clearly and correctly communicate how these diagrams actually work was a bit trickier.”

From his brainstorming powered by “sound logic and silliness,” Dutton shares some of his early giant sketches that he roughed out while hashing out ideas with the Doodle’s engineer, Corrie Scalisi, and fellow engineer Mark Ivey:

(courtesy of MIKE DUTTON/Google 2014.)


Dutton says the team was initially inspired by the look of kids’ games and schoolchildren’s textbooks:

(courtesy of MIKE DUTTON/Google 2014.)


That, he says, led to a “playable” prototype demo made from index cards

(courtesy of MIKE DUTTON/Google 2014.)


“However, as the project developed I realized it would be better served with a fresh vibrant look that could easily be animated,” Dutton writes. “The biggest visual cue came in the form of the Venn diagram itself: circles. I basically cut circles up into as many ways as I could using Illustrator, and the style guide gradually emerged.”

And thus, the deft Doodle team found its highly engaging overlap of concept and artistry.

Thank you, Team Dutton.

Happy birthday, Master Venn.



Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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