The first Google Doodle was indeed a nod to Burning Man. This can be confirmed on the official Google.com website.
The First Google Doodle Was a Nod to Burning Man
The first Google Doodle was designed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to notify users of their absence in case the servers crashed while they were at the Burning Man Festival of 1998.
FACT: The first Google Doodle, the “Burning Man Festival” Doodle, was created on August 30, 1998.
NOTE: Notice the Doodle has a burning man figure in the background. Also notice the Google logo is using a Yahoo! like exclamation point.
The Backstory of the First Google Doodle
According to lore, Sergey Brin the Google logo using GIMP (like a free photoshop) in 1998. Shortly after, Larry and Sergey were preparing to officially incorporate Google as a company. However, before that happened, the boys took a vacation spending the last week of August at Burning Man.
While they were away at the festival, they tweaked the Corporate logo on the website creating the first Google Doodle. I’ll let the official story on Google.com speak for itself:
In 1998, before the company was even incorporated, the concept of the doodle was born when Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the 2nd “o” in the word, Google, and the revised logo was intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were “out of office.”. While the first doodle was relatively simple, the idea of decorating the company logo to celebrate notable events was born.
- Doodles About. Google.com
- Burning Man Doodle. Google.com.
- The First Google Doodle Was a Burning Man Stick Figure. TheAtlantic.com.
- Google logo. Wikipedia.org.
- Who Designed the Google Logo? BrandingMag.com.