by Caleb Goellner

Ian David Marsden: The Original Google Doodler

For millions of users, the Google Doodle is the first piece of art they see every day as they log on to check e-mail, pay bills or get started at work. But as ingrained in Google users' routines as they've become, the program's origins don’t reach all that far back in the past. In fact, freelance illustrator Ian David Marsden holds the honor of being the first real Google Doodle artist, when he was commissioned by Google to create a Doodle for the alien abduction of their now-iconic daily homepage tradition in May 2000.

Since his Google Doodle debut Marsden's gone on to illustrate several others, including his "Kangerdoodle" series for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games, for which received thousands of fan mails from Googlers from around the globe.

If you were so inclined, you could probably use Google Street View to virtually pass by Marsden’s home office in a small wine village in the Pic St. Loup region of Southern France. You could also Google his client list, which includes brands like Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, MAD Magazine, The New Yorker, VISA, and Showtime television.

Graphic Designer as Super Sleuth

Marsden built up his freelance business steadily, starting in a one-bedroom studio in Santa Monica, CA before relocating to his dedicated digital/traditional studio in France. He credits his success to several factors: A unique style, rigid self-discipline and the ability to interact and negotiate with clients – plus the perseverance to ensure he gets paid for his work. Word of mouth recommendations from clients, and a strong web presence.

Marsden says that the freelance life suits him, since it gives him the freedom to work on his own schedule with his family close by. He jokingly describes the jobs he’s gotten as a freelancer, "It’s almost a bit like a client walking up the steps to Sherlock Holmes’ flat at 221B Baker Street. They know they have a problem or need to find something, but they often have no clue what they actually want. I then have to come up with some amazing and astounding solutions and hopefully make everybody happy."

From Google to Glass

In 2013, the German glassworks company, Ritzenhoff approached Marsden and commissioned him to design a specialty collection of farm-themed kitchen items. Although he was given a limited color palette to choose from (since the art needed to be baked onto the glass), Ritzenhoff gave Marsden full artistic license to use his imagination when choosing the art for each of the pieces.

With a background in illustrating characters, Marsden decided that his Ritzenhoff designs should be more figurative than abstract. The first items he created were the sugar bird and a salt pig, and he added a bunny and a cow to the herb jars to keep the collection cohesive. His approach paid off, as he's been sent snapshots of the purchased pieces from satisfied fans.

Ever the perfectionist, Marsden says he often has to resist the immediate urge to critically examine each finished piece and find imperfections with the design. "After over 20 years in the business I have learned to tell that inner voice to shut up and I just keep trying to do it better next time," he says.

Wacom Tools for the Career Journey

Marsden was a Wacom user PGD (pre-Google Doodle), integrating technology into his workflow from early on in his career.

"I’ve worked on computers ever since they were available, but things only really got exciting from an art and design standpoint when I held my very first Wacom Intuos in my hand. I guess this was in 1999 with my PowerMacs G3 running OS8 or 9. I started drawing with the tablet in Flash, Photoshop and Freehand (before I switched to Adobe Illustrator), and I loved it. From the first second, I remember saying, ‘With this tool, I can do ANYTHING.'"

Today Marsden draws mainly on his trusty Cintiq with the Adobe Creative Suite, Autodesk SketchBook Pro, Manga Studio, Corel Painter and Mischief.

"I cannot even begin to explain how Wacom products have revolutionized and simplified the way I work. It was like a dream come true to have a direct interface with my computers and my software. The Intuos was already amazing, but then the Cintiq was just what I had always hoped would exist someday. I cannot imagine working without it anymore and I cannot praise or recommend it highly enough."

We asked if he had advice to pass onto aspiring future Doodlers, Marsden offered words of encouragement.

"Never give up. Don’t let rejection slips or even sometimes harsh criticism get you down. Nobody just gets in and moves ahead without obstruction and rejection. You would be amazed that even artists who you might consider established and well known still have to deal with it."

You can see more of Marsden's work at his official website.