How I got to be an Illustrator at Google, with No Qualifications.
In the summer of 2012, I was hired 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 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 geography.
I chose geography because it seemed more sensible.
When the course ended, I decided to study 'Real Estate' because I had watched loads of TV
programmes featuring building houses and Sarah Beeny
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 commisions 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 learned 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!
Soon after, I wrote a guide on using social network 'Google Plus' to find new clients.
Through the very actions I recommended people to use in the guide, I 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 on Google Hangouts, while wolfing sushi in Tokyo.
And that's my Google story
Takeaways: Be aware of early interested and talents
College training can be really useful, unless it's not. Doing interesting thingsm 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 the people who night be interested and join the newsletter above for regular tips for creative people who make cool things.
Thank you for reading! Alex (March, 2013)

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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist

  • Tom Griffiths Photo

    Cracking read, really enjoyed it !

  • Alex Mathers


  • YK

    This is very inspiring. Thank you Alex. It gives me faith that I can still make it.

  • Jeriel Patrick

    Will do. Just wish you didn’t have to pay for video tutorials on some of these tutorial websites that would be a plus. Is there any video tutorials on how you did the illustration with monkeys? It would probably help me out a lot.

  • Alex Mathers

    Thanks YK! All the best :)

  • Alex Mathers


  • Marc Lougee

    Great post, Alex. Inspirational, and real world proven. Nice! ALso, love the illustrative stuff sprinkled the– you’ve got a great style, and neat to see the stuff front and center.
    Cheers, M.

  • Alex Mathers

    Thank you Marc – that is appreciated :)

  • Alex Mathers

    I drew it out myself actually, but learnt vector software on

  • Hamish

    An inspirational article. Great style! Next stop youtube and adobe illustrator :). Best of luck with everything Alex.

  • Rika Chandra

    A fun read, and also inspiring! Love the snow Apes! Is there a story behind it?

  • Carrie Jordan

    You are so cool. I love your blog. Thanks for being awesome and sharing your awesomeness with us.

  • Alex Mathers

    haha, thank you Carrie :)

  • Alex Mathers

    Hi Rika,

    I went to see them in Japan, and I think first got excited about them in a BBC documentary about them :)

  • Alex Mathers

    Good luck Hamish!

  • Chiali Tsai

    Thanks for making those articles. its so easy to read with the illustrations and so encourage! :D

  • Alex Mathers

    sure thing!

  • Marc Burnett

    true inspiration cheers.

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  • Pete R.

    Really interesting read! I had experienced a similar situation, although mine didn’t end with a job offer from Google. I wasn’t able to find the style that will make me stand out so instead I decided to combine the illustration skill, the marketing skill, and my web development skill I got during that period and created my first startup ( and sold it later on.

    “Be aware of early interests and talents” is the best advice you could get as a youngster. Once you know, every decision you make after that will get you closer to your dreams than not knowing what you love.

    Love your illustration by the way. :)

  • Alex Mathers

    Great comment Pete, thanks! Great story too – the startup you built looks excellent. I’d love to hear more about it and your experience with setting it up and selling it.

    Thank you dude!

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  • Malika

    Alex, I love you! Lol. Thanks a lot for sharing your journey! I’m a rising college senior and I’ve been contemplating whether I should take the mass industrialized route to “success” and go straight to graduate school or take some time to explore the dormant seeds of talents and interests that are waiting to germinate within me. This inspiration is the water to my garden, right now.

  • Alex Mathers

    good to hear it ;) all the best with it!

  • Angelica

    Wow, I really needed this. I’m 14 and I want to pursue art so badly, but no one I know believes it. I love learning and all, but NOTHING gets me as interested as art. Nothing. I can draw for hours, and I do, save for the 30 maybe 40 minutes arguing with my parents about it. I know I ‘have’ to do good in school, and to be honest, I know I can. But I want nothing else but art. I don’t want to be rich and go to an Ivy like every else I know does, I just want to afford to keep drawing.

    Why does life make it so hard? Why can’t I say I want to be an artist and not get the dirty looks my friends and parents give me? They say, be anything!, but when I picked art their opinion totally changed.

    Anyways, I saw the last comments were from two years ago, so chances are you’ll never see this Alex… but thank you, I needed this badly.

  • Alex Mathers

    Angelica – seriously – do what you are passionate about. Absolutely do not give into the comments and suggestions of others, even family. Do what makes you come alive. Do email me if you have any questions. Alex

  • Eva Valentine

    Dear Alex,
    This is really inspiring..I just got out of my drawing II class where we were having a critique. Im usually proud after a critique but this time I wasn’t. I went home feeling like my heart wasn’t in art anymore or maybe just that style. I want to be an illustrator. So I looked up how and came across this article. My heart is in my cartoonish style with crazy hair not this realist charcoal powdered drawing business. I just want to take this moment to thank you for cheering me up. 1) because your cat 2) because sushi 3) because of those silly pink monkey people whom I adore and 4) because you helped me realize that instead of me making art to please people in school, I should adapt my style to the requirements of the project. Anywhoo, thank you
    Signed, Eva V.

  • Alex Mathers

    Hi Eva,

    thank you :) and it is my pleasure to hear things like this. Go for it!