Lydia Nichols ’07, a graduate of the School of Art's illustration program, has one of the coolest jobs in the world—creating doodles, the changes made to the Google logo on the company’s homepage to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous people. Talent, hard work, and a strong social media presence helped the artist land her dream-come-true job in San Francisco.
Tell us about your career.
After graduating from Syracuse, I moved to NYC and worked through a smattering of design-related jobs, such as freelance for the Museum of Modern Art. The creative director at the museum who hired me was also an SU alum and saw my work at Lubin House. Simultaneously, I was putting my nose to the grindstone after-hours to work on freelance illustration. I did that balancing act for about four years before returning to school to earn an M.F.A. in graphic and interactive design at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. That allowed me to hone and merge my illustration and design skills, which upon graduation led to an internship at Pixar Animation Studios, a design fellowship at Chronicle Books, and two years of full-time freelancing back in Philly. In 2015, I started working as a doodler for Google, making the long trek to the West Coast. I wish there was an interesting story behind how I landed at Google, but honestly I think it was just keeping my portfolio and social media outlets up to date with recent illustrations. They contacted me, so here I am in the Bay Area.
Why did you choose to attend Syracuse University?
Syracuse was the only university I applied to—all others were strictly art schools—and I gained invaluable exposure to other fields of study. It's all too easy for art students to slip into their own world, but just the being present at such a large campus with so many diverse opportunities forced me to open my eyes and gain a little more awareness. Illustrators are always working toward visual communication and engagement, often in new or unknown territory. My experience as a full-time illustrator has included a lot of research into other fields, like science, current events, and politics, as part of the job. Jumpstarting that exposure in college was extremely beneficial. I also found my lovely partner at Syracuse—we just married after nine years together.
How did your SU education help you get to where you are today?
Syracuse was a great place to learn a lot about myself because it wasn't hyper-specialized or scattered across a giant metropolis. Having that space and time to grow and explore meant that I had fewer growing pains after graduation. It was during those years at Syracuse that I really began to appreciate the importance of tireless hard work and unwavering perseverance in a field like the arts. I carried those traits and sensibilities into the so-called real world and I think they're very much the reason for my success. I mean, I'm pleased as punch to be a self-sustaining illustrator! It's the dream!
What do you remember most of your time at Syracuse?
My favorite memories include making comics for The Daily Orange (which I hope are impossible to find now), taking a limo to the art store (perhaps the most unexpected mode of transportation for broke art students), and the buildings. It was tempting to go to an art school in a big city, but now that I've spent the past decade living in large cities, I'm extremely grateful for the time I had on a large campus with nature nearby and a quad with trees. It also meant fewer distractions and more time for drawing!
See more of Nichols' work at www.lydianichols.com.