Posted 12 December 2023

Get to know The Google Creative Fellowship and its current rising stars

Born out of Google’s work to support and celebrate underrepresented creatives, The Google Creative Fellowship has provided an educational and nurturing programme for emerging creatives since 2019. Here, we’re sharing more about this brilliant scheme, its impact and the talented cohort from this year’s programme.

The Google Creative Fellowship


About the Programme

A programme for emerging, underrepresented creatives that includes mentoring, networking opportunities and hands-on experience across Google’s marketing teams.

Programme Length

5–6 months

Cohort Size

6–20 people per year

Who the Programme Is For

Creatives from underrepresented and non-traditional backgrounds with 0–5 years’ experience. Specialisms range from writing and design to production.

What is The Google Creative Fellowship?

Founded in 2019 by Brandon Viney and Rebecca Sills, two Group Creative Directors at the company’s Brand Studio, The Google Creative Fellowship was created to usher a new generation of undiscovered, emerging talent from diverse backgrounds into the creative world.

The Fellowship experience has been designed to offer a range of career-strengthening benefits, from ongoing mentoring and networking opportunities, to hands-on experience within Google’s creative marketing teams: Creative Lab, Brand Studio, YouTube Creative Studio and Events and Experiences.

During the programme, the idea is to fully expose the Fellows to the creative development process, as well as challenge them to create meaningful outcomes. Each Fellow is an integral part of the process, from ideation and production, right up to the end result. To date, some of the most significant output that Fellows have been part of includes Google’s 2020 Most Searched campaign, Pixel 6 Real Tone feature, 2022 Year in Search and LGBTQ+ Belonging initiative; with the 2023 cohort contributing to the launch of the 2023 Black-owned Friday campaign featuring Keke Palmer, as well as the Pixel 8 launch.

Google Creative Fellowship creative lives black owned friday

The Black-owned Friday campaign, launched in November 2023

Google Creative Fellowship creative lives most searched

2022 Year in Search

Google Creative Fellowship creative lives pixel 6

2021 Fellow Simone Cotton worked on the Pixel 6 Real Tone launch; see more work at simonecotton.com

The effects of this level of integration in the Google team are twofold. The Fellows get to authentically impact the work and culture at Google, while evolving their own careers and confidence as working creatives.

What is the impact of the programme so far?

The outcome of the programme is wide-ranging and ongoing, but some of the most tangible impact includes Fellows landing covetable jobs off the back of the experience.

To highlight a few talented former Fellows now working at Google: Fernanda Urena is an interaction designer; Kyndacee Harris works as a writer within Brand Studio; Gang Buron-Yi is a designer/creative; Annie Bartholomew is an interaction designer. In addition, many have found work at sought-after organisations beyond Google, including Apple, Meta and LinkedIn; as well as landing roles at creative agencies, or pursuing their own illustrative creative endeavours.

Meet The Google Creative Fellowship class of 2023

The current cohort of nine Fellows is a brilliant mix of writers, designers, social creatives and producers. Read on to discover each participant and their journey to the programme.

Amare Symoné

Pronouns: she/they
Fellowship Role: Copywriting with Brand Studio
Based: New York
See more: Website, LinkedIn

Having started out as a singer-songwriter, Amare’s creative vision involves shaping musically informed narratives that weave in their passion for community building, creative innovation and culturally rich storytelling.

Amare’s experience spans the non-profit, music business, and advertising industries. She previously worked at companies like Spotify and Converse/Nike, is a member of the Recording Academy, received the 2023 RenderATL Scholarship and kickstarted their teaching artist career at Girl Be Heard.

Now a social creative copywriter at Google, Amare has been fusing their unique experiences together while using cultural insights to spark global change. Some highlights include working on Gen-Z informed campaigns that celebrate accessibility and inclusivity, such as Trans Awareness Week and #BlackOwnedFriday. As for what’s next, Amare knows that “it’s only up from here,” as she looks forward to shining alongside the cohort. In Amare’s words, “there’s no telling what we can accomplish.”

Andy Zhao

Pronouns: he/him
Fellowship Role: Social Creative with YouTube Creative Studio
Based
: New York
See more: Website, Instagram

Andy is the proud son of immigrants and currently an art director, but his journey began on quite a different track. From interning at the US Senate to being a college mascot, he’d tried “every job under the sun” before finally deciding to pursue a creative career.

While waiting tables by day, Andy attended Droga5's D5in10 Academy at night, and built a portfolio in just three months. In his mind, anyone can break into the industry, they just have to walk the walk and stay committed to honing their craft.

Now part of YouTube Creative Studio, Andy blends his background in fine art and design with a love for smart, witty storytelling. Through the fellowship, he’s received invaluable insights from people he considers role models, and has discovered the difference between simply liking your job and loving it. Looking to the future, Andy plans to keep honing his craft and uplifting the next generation of talent, just as others did for him.

Anmol Govinda Rao

Pronouns: he/him
Role: Designer with Events and Experiences
Based
: San Francisco
See more: Website, Instagram, LinkedIn

Hailing from Singapore, Anmol’s journey into graphic design began with a childhood fascination with exploration and problem-solving, as well as a love of art. This forged a strong foundation for a career in design, which he’s since pursued with focus and perseverance.

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and being part of student-run design studio RISD Design Guild, Anmol joined Google’s Events and Experiences team. From being on film sets to encountering celebrities, the fellowship has been a whirlwind of memorable first experiences. But for Anmol, the best part has been collaborating with a talented and supportive team who each have their unique perspectives and styles.

Driven by his passion for creating visual identities, narratives and experiences, he’s been strengthening his creative approach through the programme. This has included cultivating greater balance between creativity and a willingness to adapt. By learning not to become too attached to one idea or style, he’s remained open to new strategies, changes and pivots along the way.

Jo Iijima

Pronouns: he/him
Role: Designer with Events and Experiences
Based
: Pasadena, California
See more: Website, Instagram

Jo is a Japanese graphic designer specialising in brand identity, as well as currently training at ArtCenter College of Design. His interest in exploring new cultures can be traced back to his upbringing; growing up, he moved between Tokyo, Hong Kong, Vienna, Toronto and New York, which exposed him to a huge range of design styles. Shaped by these influences, he sees a direct channel between his designs and the environment around him.

The Fellowship has already been a transformative journey for Jo. Whether it’s crafting an event’s brand identity or working on spatial design creative direction, he’s had the opportunity to work on projects from conceptualisation to execution, while collaborating with a diverse and innovative group of people.

This has broadened Jo’s creative horizons and heightened his awareness of how design engages with its surroundings. Encouraged by the work he’s done and people he’s met, he’s been inspired to adopt a three-dimensional perspective and push creative boundaries in his work.

John Polanco

Pronouns: he/him
Role: Writer with Google Creative Lab
Based
: New York
See more: LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram

John’s love for words only seems fitting given that he hails from New York’s Morris Heights section in The Bronx – a neighbourhood recognised as the birthplace of hip-hop. Not only has he established himself as a rapper with sell-out shows, he also studied human behaviour at the University at Buffalo before embarking on his creative copywriting journey.

Having completed programmes with The One School and Droga 5’s D5in10, John is now using his natural ability as a wordsmith to tell stories in original, transparent and emotional ways.

For John, the best part of the Fellowship has been the people and the network he’s forging. Besides being mentored by Tristan Smith, a creative director at Google Creative Lab, he’s also been able to set up meetings with the likes of Lyor Cohen, Google and YouTube’s Global Head of Music; as well as Tuma Basa, YouTube’s Director of Black Music and Culture. Through building relationships and learning from others, John is focusing on making his fellowship a fruitful one.

Ozodi Onyeabor

Pronouns: she/her
Fellowship Role: Social Creative with Brand Studio
Based
: New York
See more: Website, LinkedIn

While she initially started her career as a production coordinator with a passion for photography, Ozodi pivoted into project management during the pandemic, and began managing brand campaigns for Highsnobiety and Johannes Leonardo.

Ozodi joined the Creative Fellowship as a social creative producer at Google’s Brand Studio, where she’s invested in building worlds where people can engage with creativity as active participants rather than spectators. Through the programme, she’s gaining valuable insight into problem solving, team synergy and agility, as well as discovering the importance of drawing learnings from each project.

For Ozodi, every experience is what you make of it and feeds into the next. That’s why she’s focused on remaining present, asking questions, learning from others and making genuine connections; because Ozodi knows that opportunities will always arise, but what sets you apart is the way you make people feel in the process.

Peter Johnson

Pronouns: he/him
Fellowship Role: Social Creative with Brand Studio
Based
: New York
See more: LinkedIn

Originally from Lagos in Nigeria, Peter is an artist and entrepreneur based in New York City. His love for amplifying culture, telling stories and building community has seen him produce work in various mediums – from art direction to design to creative production and everything in between.

So far, Peter’s favourite part of the Fellowship has been the people. For him, it's not just about the projects fulfilled or the knowledge gained, but the collaboration, diversity of thought and passion demonstrated by the talented minds around him. As Peter shares, “It’s been truly inspiring to cross paths with an endless set of experts, each with their own dynamic insights, knowledge to share and dedication to making a positive impact through creativity”.

Fuelled by the connections and experiences he’s gained at Google, Peter aims to keep telling stories that resonate with people, inspire change and celebrate the essence of different cultures. As he continues exploring ways to fuse creativity, culture, and community-building, he looks forward to what lies ahead on his journey.

Sunny Chen

Pronouns: she/her
Role: Associate Producer with Google Creative Lab
Based: New York
See more: LinkedIn

Sunny is a producer by trade and a storyteller at heart. With her previous experiences rooted at the intersection of entertainment and tech, she has worked on the creative development and production of projects that span podcasts, digital, and short films.

As a first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about producing content that transcends language and culture, and encompasses everything she values as a creative.

Since Sunny always aims to create space for underrepresented stories in her work, she’s been grateful to work with Google’s Creative Lab throughout the Fellowship. Appreciating the way the team approaches each project through an empathetic and human lens, she’s been able to support them in their work to explore how tech can have a unique impact.

Sydney Gilbert

Pronouns: she/her
Fellowship Role: Social Creative with YouTube Creative Studio
Based
: New York
See more: LinkedIn, Instagram

Sydney is a creative, copywriter, improv comedian and self-appointed Dungeons & Dragons “elf”. Until now, her career has been in marketing and social media roles, but she recently made a shift towards creative advertising, taking up weekend classes to build up her knowledge.

Growing up, Sydney shares that she was always the “goofy friend who took the joke too far”, so when she discovered stand-up comedy and improv, it became the ideal vehicle to explore her creative voice.

Sydney says that she approached the Fellowship with almost no expectations of what it would offer, but found herself surrounded by talented creatives who encouraged and validated her skills. She was tasked with real work right away and listened to when she shared opinions. As someone who struggles with imposter syndrome, Sydney has found it a transformative experience for her own self-perception – plus, as she reflects, “the unlimited iced lattes have been pretty great too.”

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Watch this space for updates on the next edition of The Google Creative Fellowship; we’ll be updating you as soon as we know more.

Google is a Creative Lives in Progress Company Partner. Every year, we collaborate with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Creative Lives in Progress a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Written by Creative Lives in Progress