An image from Google’s slide show Doodle to mark International Women’s Day 2017. (Olivia Huynh/Google)

YOU MIGHT NOT be familiar with all 13 pioneering women featured today on Google’s home page. That, in fact, is part of the point. To celebrate International Women’s Day, the team behind the slide show Doodle hopes to fuel the viewer’s own hunger for discovery.

“I hope people are excited to learn more about these” heroes on their own, said the Doodle’s artist, Olivia Huynh, for whom the elegant slide show was a two-month labor of love.

In choosing to dramatize that sparked sense of discovery, Huynh said she was inspired by the fact that many of the women in her own life, including several relatives, are storytellers.

“The Doodle itself is a frame narrative about this girl and her grandmother, [who] is telling her the story of one of her heroes,” Huynh told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “And that inspires the girl to go and look at other women in history, and so she [has] an imaginative journey. … At the end, she comes back to her grandmother and has so many things to tell her.”

The slide show’s 13 heroes have each previously received individual Doodles. Because today’s Doodle will appear worldwide, the artist said, Google chose “people of diverse backgrounds and diverse global locations.”

The globe-spanning array of women spotlighted in Google’s slide show are (in order): Ida B. WellsLotfia El Nadi, Frida KahloLina Bo BardiOlga SkorokhodovaMiriam MakebaSally Ride, Halet Çambel, Ada LovelaceRukmini Devi (Arundale), Cecilia Grierson, Lee Tai-young and Suzanne Lenglen.

The first National Women’s Day, which was backed by the Socialist Party of America largely over labor rights, was observed in the United States in 1909. Two years later, International Women’s Day was marked in numerous European countries, as more than a million people reportedly attended rallies for women’s rights.

“International Women’s Day has become a powerful day for women activists banding together to have their voice heard,” Glenda Stone, founder of the global hub InternationalWomensDay.com, told Comic Riffs in 2012. “It has also become a mainstream day for celebrating the success of women in all fields across all countries.

Concept art by Olivia Huynh. (used by exclusive permission of Google 2017)
Concept art by Olivia Huynh. (Google)

For the Texas-born Huynh — who studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art — today’s Doodle was a very personal project.

“If I could do anything on Women’s Day, it would be to look back at my heroes [and] tell them how much they’ve influenced me,” said Huynh, who pitched the Doodle’s concept as a virtual time-traveling tribute. She believes most people would readily “go back in time and tell their heroes: ‘Thank you.’”


Concept art by Olivia Huynh for Google’s Women’s Day 2017 Doodle. (Google)

From that inspiration, Huynh — who was hired at Google two years ago (after traveling to festivals with her thesis film, “Borrowed Light”) — sat on the floor last December and began to churn out “no pressure” sketches. On that occasion, the visual ideas flowed easily.


Frida Kahlo: An image from Google’s slide-show Doodle to mark International Women’s Day 2017. (Olivia Huynh/Google)

Huynh said that her favorite heroes to render, in Photoshop, were Ride and Kahlo. “The chance to draw Frida for a Doodle is something to dream about,” Huynh said of the great Mexican painter and activist. “Her story is incredible.”


Miriam Makeba, Sally Ride and Halet Cambel are spotlighted in Google’s slide-show Doodle to mark International Women’s Day 2017. (Olivia Huynh/Google)

As Huynh worked on the Doodle, she felt especially fortunate to have so many supportive women in her workplace. In contrast to much of the hiring in Silicon Valley, Team Google Doodle is diverse in its gender balance. “It’s great to have women around whose opinions are really helpful in a super-supportive environment,” the artist said.

And as her Doodle goes out into the world, Huynh said she hopes it “inspires people to see women doing these things.”

“It’s like the great quote,” she said. “‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’”

Read more:

Women’s Day Doodle 2012: Colorful logo celebrates 101st anniversary of empowering day

Women’s Day Doodle 2011: Logo invites you to world’s bridges to mark 100th year

Olivia Huynh’s film “Borrowed Light”: