The 2013 Martin Luther King Day Google Doodle shows how a corporation can honor history without exploiting it. The Doodle, which went live shortly after midnight EST on January 21, incorporates an image of MLK into the Google name, punctuated by a vibrant color scheme of yellow, aqua, purple, black, and white. Clicking on the Doodle takes you to a series of educational articles about one of the most influential men of the 20th Century. The Doodle is a model for other corporations.
We’ve all seen crass examples of businesses taking advantage of history to make a buck — usually in the form of retailer breathlessly offering a sale to honor the memory of someone’s passing with the real motive being to honor the tradition of American capitalism. (These examples show you what I mean, and so do these courtesy of Buzzfeed. The Google Doodle could have just as easily veered into poor taste by reducing an iconic figure to a supporting part in a corporate logo. (Imagine Nike trying to incorporate an image of MLK into the Swoosh logo.) But Google long ago established credibility by establishing a practice of acknowledging current events and cultural phenomena through the Doodle. So using Doodles to honor solemn moments in history and celebrating historical figures like JFK, MLK, and Gandhi feels natural. Here are some other examples:
The 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Inauguration
German Unification Day
Day of the Dead
Google deserves praise for using its visibility and influence to remember history. Google has demonstrated corporate leadership.