How I Got to Be an Illustrator at Google, with No Qualifications
In the summer of 2012, I was hired on a freelance-basis to work with Google in their Mountain View HQ (now remotely) as an illustrator.
I’m self-taught and have no qualifications in art or design. A lot of people have asked me how I did it.
Here’s the story…
Since around the age of four, I’ve enjoyed drawing and making art, especially pictures of buildings and landscapes…
…I also loved volcanoes in school.
After school, I was at a crossroads. I needed to decide on whether I wanted to study art or
I chose geography because it seemed more
When the course ended, I decided to study ‘Real Estate’ because I had watched loads of tv
programmes featuring building houses and
Whilst studying for the course and working for a property magazine in London, I began to teach myself Adobe Illustrator using some online videos…
…This was partly for fun, but also so that I could make pocket money through royalties earned from a stock illustration site.
Making illustrations to be sold made me think about what worked commercially, and forced me to develop a style that stood out.
Within a couple of years I had a portfolio of 350 illustrations on the site, earning me enough to buy sweets and pay the rent each month.
This also got me some commissions and I soon quit working in an office and set out to work for myself.
For the next few years I paid the bills by making pictures of monkeys, undersea creatures,
landscapes and buildings, for various people.
I learnt so much about promotion and the business of illustration in a short time, that I decided to write a book and set up a website to help other creative people: the one you’re reading!
On Google+ itself, I soon got into a conversation with a future designer at Google.
He liked my work and was interested in the other projects I was working on, except the ones where I was taking pictures of my cat.
When he got hired by Google, he dropped my monkey illustrations in front of the head of design at Google+, and a while later, I was offered the job via video chat, while snarfing sushi in Tokyo.
And that’s my Google story.
Be aware of early interests and talents.
College training can be really useful, unless it’s not.
Doing interesting things that are useful to people will be useful for you.
Making friends with people in the right places can change your life.
Do share this with people who might be interested, and join the newsletter above for regular tips for creative people who make cool things.
Thank you for reading!
Alex (March, 2013)