Meet Ben Tobias, illustrator and motion designer at Google! Ben joins us to share what he’s been working on, a peek into his creative process, and where he likes to gather inspiration for his work. Plus, get a glimpse into what a typical workday looks like for Ben!
- Location: San Francisco, California
- Occupation: Illustrator & Motion Designer @Google
- Design tool of choice: Procreate
- Currently jamming out to: Metric
- If I wasn’t a designer: I’d like to invent new fast foods
A quick introduction
I’m an illustrator and animator working on the Google Assistant. I focus on features (which can range from games, to jokes, to what an animal sounds like) that help create the personality of the Assistant. My background is in traditional animation and illustration.
Landing a job at Google
Before Google, I worked for nearly six years building educational minigames. I was lucky enough to spend that time being able to set the style in my projects while practicing design, UX, illustration, and animation. I posted a lot of the work I did there to Dribbble and that’s actually where it was noticed. The Googler that reached out to me said they found me on Dribbble!
A typical workday
I’ve been figuring out a shelter in place routine, so I’ll outline my old one. I’d wake up early and exercise before heading in to work. Grab some coffee, say some good mornings, and head to my desk to continue whatever my current project is.
Most days I don’t have many meetings, so I’m somewhat left to my own devices to continue my work and ask for opinions as I might need them. I’d take a nice break in the afternoons to walk around outside, maybe snap some polaroids or meet a dog. Then get a bit more work done before heading home.
Ben’s home workspace.
Favorite sources of inspiration offline
Those can come from anywhere! I take a lot of photos on walks of things I like (colors on some buildings, nice lighting in the sky, or a dog). I also write down things people say that make me laugh—fun sketch ideas can come from that.
My illustration process
I usually start with a lot of reference images and research. Photo reference, style reference, color reference, any research I might need to make sure I’m depicting something accurately. Then I’ll do some sketching and color thumbnails.
I write down things people say that make me laugh—fun sketch ideas can come from that.
Typically I’ll ask a few friends for their feedback on the thumbnails and then start working on the final. Then get some feedback again on the final and make some adjustments there.
Dealing with creative block
Hopefully, I don’t have a pressing deadline and I’ll tell myself it’s ok to pause for a bit and come back later. Taking a walk or just thinking about something else for a while helps. Opening up a new file and changing out my color palette or brush can also be good for re-energizing me. Hugging a dog can work too.
Advice I’d give to my younger self
Don’t throw away your old anime fanart because you’ll want it when you are older.