Google celebrates Ampelmann’s birthday with special Google Doodle

The Berlin 'Ampelmann' or 'Ampelmännchen', meaning little traffic-light man, is an icon of the city and today Google Germany is celebrating his 56th birthday with his very own animation.

Google celebrates Ampelmann's birthday with special Google Doodle

The Berlin Ampelmann was originally unique only to East Berlin, but nowadays it can be seen on traffic lights around the city, guiding you to safety whenever you cross a junction on foot. is paying homage to this cult figure on his 56th anniversary with a cute animated Doodle of a working Ampelmann traffic light.

Google Ampelmann Doodle. Photo: Google

The father of the Ampelmann was traffic psychologist, engineer and designer, Karl Peglau

Peglau was concerned by the ever-increasing risk cars posed to pedestrians throughout the 20th century and presented his designs for a little human figure to the East Berlin traffic authorities on October 13th, 1961.

Before this, the first traffic light in Berlin was set up in Potsdamer Platz in 1924 and was, in fact, an 8m tall tower, manned by a policeman.

The first traffic light specifically for pedestrians was debuted in Copenhagen in 1933, and by 1952 these had developed into illuminated signs with the instructions 'Warten' and 'Gehen', much like the 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk' traffic lights in New York.

With his hat, pointy nose and shoes, the Ampelmann is undeniably cute, but behind the figure is a great deal of psychological research and testing.

The little man was designed by Peglau to elicit a positive emotional response from pedestrians by being aesthetically appealing and someone to whom the average man could relate, in the hopes that people would be less likely to ignore the signal and put themselves in danger.

“My husband was sure: pedestrians will only follow the traffic symbol if they like and relate to him,” Hildegard Peglau, wife of the Ampelmann's designer told the Berlin Stadtportal.

The Ampelmann was also designed with the political climate in mind; as an East German, Peglau allegedly considered adding a crest to the design, or tilting the man's head to the left. 

In the end he was inspired by the sight of communist leader, Erich Honecker, who appeared on a television broadcast on a sunny day in a straw hat.

Today, the Ampelmann is as much a traffic control device as a cult figure, with shops around the city dedicated to Ampelmann merchandise.