The prize is a $30,000 college scholarship for the winner and $50,000 for his or her school. Parents love that part. But aspiring young artists will probably be as impressed by the instant-gratification angle: By appearing on the Google homepage, the big winner's artwork could be seen by more people in a day than visit Washington's National Gallery of Art in a year. (About 4.5 million visited the museum in 2011; there are about 100 billion searches on Google per month, according to a spokeswoman.)
"Based on the journey I took to become a doodler," said Doodle artist Mike Dutton, Doodle 4 Google allows "kids to skip all of the hard parts and get their artwork up on Google's homepage right away!"
"Doodles" are how Google refers to the occasional art featured on its homepage that uses the company logo as part of the package. It all started in 1998 with a stick figure by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They were going to be out of town at the Burning Man festival and changing the homepage logo was their little way
Since then, the doodles have become complex and high-tech. (One favorite: the Les Paul doodle.) These days, a team of doodlers works on the art.
Doodler Dutton told the Los Angeles Times by email that judging the contest each year is rewarding but also can be humbling.
"We are ... constantly amazed at how someone in the fourth grade will submit a concept that closely resembles an idea we've had for another doodle that hasn't been seen yet," he said. "And, true, while it may threaten job security 20 years from now, it reminds us that we have work in an environment where we get to celebrate ideas and innovation with childlike enthusiasm."
Submissions for Doodle 4 Google will be accepted through March 22, by mail or download. Now in its sixth year, the contest's popularity continues to grow. Last year, Google saw its greatest number of submissions -- 114,000 works of art from kids across the U.S., compared with 16,000 in its first year.
This year, a Google team and selected celebrity judges -- including Katie Couric, puppeteer Brian Henson and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman -- will narrow down the field to a winner from each state. The finalists are presented to the public for a vote from May 1 to 10, which leads to the national winner. In 2012, there were 2.85 million online votes, according to the search engine giant.
The U.S. winner will be announced May 22; his or her art will appear on the Google homepage on May 23; and the 50 state winners will have their art displayed from May 23 to July 17 at New York's American Museum of Natural History. Google has the details.