We all use google.com and most of us use google’s image search, too. You type in a word and google gives you the pictures associated with that word either by title or proximity to that word on a website.The results are instantaneous, robust, and useful. It was not always this way, but now that google image search is here, it changes the way we look at the world. This tool has come along way since its origin in 2001, and its been a huge collective effort since.
One of the special things about seeing something in person is seeing its many different views. You can compare size and measure all the angles. When you see enough images together, you get a good an idea of an object. We can only see so much. Sometimes we gather more information from photographs than we could gather with our own eyes. Those photographs with their different depths, their aerial views, their wide angled ones, all make up a concept. A series of images gives us all this information and the google image search gives all this information conveniently.
The format is simple, many rectangular thumbnails are arranged on a white page. We can select our preference for size, color, and other types. Before you explore the results there is already something special about seeing all those results together. More than any one example or one definition, a series of examples really tell the story. This specific function as a non-verbal dictionary is something that may not have been fully understood at first. Yet, there is now evidence that this is a practical application. London artists Felix Heyes and Ben West had this in mind when they designed their book which illustrates each word in a standard dictionary with the initial google image search result for each entry.
The google image search is important not because it is wholly unique, but because it a standard and it works. There are alternatives, Yahoo, Wikimedia, Bing. Each with their own specific niches. Wikimedia’s database produces images which can be used royalty free in new work. BING is integrated into the microsoft network, even though it actually uses google search results. There is even an alternative frontend developed by a third party which customizes the layout of results. Alternatives to google image search all pretty much work the same only sometimes not as well.
So far weve discussed the use of google image search as a sophisticated, real time dictionary. However, the stray results are sometimes interesting, too. Websites like buzzfeed.com curate oddities found by way of search results:
These sorts of collections become predictable despite their allegedly random nature. These diversions are mostly Photoshop collages or an unusual juxtaposition.There are mixtures of games and guns, a young celebrity with an old celebrity, men with women. And of course there is genitalia, too.These mash-ups are born of these same image searches, image results serving as the raw material for people to edit together for entertainment.
Google Image Searching is used more direct ways. Bloggers curate useful sections of a google image search and present them by way of a sceen capture. In this particular example, Spanish artist and designer Linda Eckstein uses a google image search to present the work of 18th century Spanish painter Luis Meléndez. The sceen capture provides useful information and is presented with her clarifying text. Eckstein makes the observation that both examples of the painter’s work and a copy of warrant for the arrest of a similarly named contemporary. Once again, the stray image provides added texture. Digital cohorts existing in a neighborhood just like in real world exploration.
In another example, blogger James of matroidblues.com ignores specific results to make an example of different colors. Searching for images by color is a technique native to the google image search.
Computer artists even integrate google image searching, itself, into their work. Designer Franz Enzenhofer has produced a device in which you draw in your browser and submit your drawing as the basis of an image search. This represents a rare non-verbal means of searching for an image.
Finally, Rob Walker, who writes for the Design Observer, provides a regular column which consists curated google image searches. Walker, who first noted Eckstein’s work above, is especially sensitive to the critical and enjoyable process of google image searching.