To be a designer: a natural talent or the result of hard work?

Before giving start to this discussion, I would like to quote something that Thomas Edison said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Taking into account his point of view, would it be possible to say that anyone could become a designer, or art director? Is it just a matter of study and hard work? Are there people with a natural talent for creation?

Telling you about my experience, teaching softwares like Photoshop and Illustrator for almost two years, I can say that I have seen some talented students and some that didn’t have the same luck. I don’t teach the theory of design, art history or gestalt; the students go there to learn how to use the tool, the software. The problem is some of them think that is enough to start creating logos or designing pieces. I say that is much easier to learn to use the tool than to learn to have a good aesthetic sense, because no one can teach this. What teachers at college do is to show you the right way, what should or not be done, giving you the basis. But when putting the theory into practice it’s all up to you and the lenses you’ll use to see the world.
Some people use more the right side of the brain, which is responsible for the imaginary, the emotional and the artistic matters. They surely have more ability to create, it’s easier and more natural. That’s why we can say that some people have more talent, but it doesn’t mean that other people aren’t able to produce good works. It means that they have to put more effort into working with the imagination.
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Reason x Imaginary
Photo Credit: J. Parks
On the other hand, even those who have more ability for arts need to work hard to become a designer. We all know how many years of study, books, graphic design degree programsand researches we had to go through to make it. We can’t state if coursing the university really defines a good designer or not. Some good professionals learned the basis from books, other courses, other methods , and then started working, learning and practicing. The degree surely means a lot, but it’s not everything. I have seen people majored in design that can talk about all design theories, express a vast knowledge upon the subject but in the end, can’t do effective layouts.
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Is it everything?
Credits: stock.xchng
Coming back to the first question, is it being a designer a natural talent or a result of hard work?
We can say that there’s a balance from talent and effort. The talent exists, we can’t deny it, but a not that talented person with a real interest, trying hard to learn and exploring his artistic side can be successful. Although it will be a hard path and not everyone would make it. A talented person also needs to study, learn and practice, but everything will happen more naturally. I have to say that talking for genius Thomas Edison might be right, but for a designer, inspiration is more than only one percent.
Tell us what do you think about this complex subject, write a comment.

20 thoughts on “To be a designer: a natural talent or the result of hard work?”

  1. I agree. At my school, about 35% of 2600 kids are planning to go into design or video. Some really have a knack for it and can make those “futuristic” ones while others… simply are good but they don’t really stand out. It is easy to use Photoshop but you do need a certain “knack” for it. Just looking through your site I can see some really thought out works. Go to other sites and you think hey thats pretty basic. I think there is a balance between brains and creativity

  2. i feel that you cant teach people to be creative, you can only teach them how to analyze someone else’s creativity, but still to a certain extent. in your post, you mention that “we all know” the hard work and study and etc of making it. well i never went to school. i am completely self-taught, and its my creativity that has gotten me where i am. given, i wish i COULD go to school, as i know there are things for me to learn, and im sure i could be taught to better scrutinize my own work, but as pretentious as it sounds, i am a better designer than most that i know, who all have degrees. they may know how to use quark and write actionscript, but what does that matter if the work has horribly tacky fonts and is bland?
    all in all, i think that there are most definitely people out there with a natural creative streak, but i really feel that degrees in fields like design, photography, and other skills of the sort.
    its not what you can DO… its what you can CREATE!

  3. Answer: Natural Talent AND the result of Hard Work. I’ve been in this vocation professionally since 1986. While the knowledge gained in the pursuit of my degree laid the foundation in the principles of design, I had already been drawing from a very young age and continued to work at that up through adulthood.
    I have to agree that many people–especially with the rise of video games and 3D animation–feel that desire is enough after seeing a “cool-looking” movie, game, or poster. Admittedly, in some cases, the desire CAN be strong enough to be a truly motivating factor; in most cases, once it is realized that the core talent is not there to be cultivated, the career choice falls by the wayside.

  4. this discussion is beyond me, as a designer myself, i think is all about talent, is about being fierce and original, those things are not teach, its about creation itself. being able to do just that.
    ps: im agree with Jaime.radar, fierce answer.
    Luv ya`

  5. As with every artform, it is all about balance, the thing is that that balance is different for everyone. While one person might be able to create things effortlessly, his work might not be all that good. Turn that around, and you have people who teach themselves how to use their creativity well, and while that may take a while, they end up creating great stuff. The talent/hard work equation is just different for everyone. For some art/design school is a natural choice that extends and expands their natural talents, and for others it’s a waste of time, either because they’re already so talented or because other forms of design education would suit them better.

  6. I read a book once, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and the guy showed some really terrible “left brain” stick man-drawing people transform into not great, but decent drawers. I think it’s two things to become a great designer– a conscientiousness to see and translate what you see and learn into your art, and a genuine passion to work on it every day. Anyone can practice drawing every day, but to become great you must try new things, and be hard on yourself to be better, because you love it. I’ve met loads of mediocre designers, and these are the two things they lacked.

  7. I hate to imagine that people can be blocked out of something because of birth. I would like to believe that talent is 99% perspiration. It is nice to think that if you work hard enough at something you can do it. Remember how Vincent van Gogh struggled throughout his life and today hold the record for the highest price ever paid for a painting.

  8. Adrian Rodriguez

    I find that I am stuck between both at times, and mainly because my confidence level isn’t where it needs to be. I can produce better works and different times, and vice versa. I think a lot has to do with what you see in yourself. Not Pride, But True Confidence.

  9. Damn – i wrote a full response but didn’t add my email *gone* 🙁
    The gist of my post was to say that assuming a ‘great designer’ is measured by the end product – unless you put in the hard work to master your skill and the tools needed to utilize your talent you’re never going to be seen as great.

  10. I really have no idea of training in professional design, but have an innate desire to be a capable designer soon enough in my life. I’d think that you can barely attribute any skill in the world to natural talent. It is majorly about interest, and passion (as I feel), and I am in accord with you if that is what you mean by calling a necessary thing “inspiration”. One needs to be interested in whatever he does, and that I don’t think requires, or can be brought about by, theoretical knowledge. It ought be first-hand done, and one could be good at it, whatever education level, or experience one has…
    Hope you like my views, and would love to know your response. 🙂
    Regards, accidental reader, Vishesh.

  11. @jaime.radar Hi! That’s the point when I said “We can’t state if coursing the university really defines a good designer or not”. But I’m sure you have studied by yourself about composition, typography, layout, etc and that’s why we all know the hard work and study we went through. 😉

  12. Most people that commented agree that it evolves both, talent and effort. But in general, they said that talent is a bigger part. Personally, I agree. I don’t think that ONLY the desire can make a good designer. I see many people that really like this area, studies, even work with design, but the results are not really good design layouts. Anyway, I also agree with JeremyOLED that “talent/hard work equation is just different for everyone”.

  13. I agree – For a designer inspiration is more than only one percent. Designer in today’s world is more like a commerical artist. Designers are marketers and yes any job which has so much of competition and “market” value involved, involves hard work.
    Designer = 50 %talent + 50% hard work.
    It all goes hand in hand.

  14. In my very own personal opinion i would say that Thomas Edison didn’t knew what e was talking about, and surely he wasn’t a designer. When you follow a doctrine or believe in something, yeah, you got interest and with some effort you can reach those goals… But having 5 degrees doen’t certify a good work.
    Effort does count, but it isn’t easy to anyone to have a seinsibility toward arts, seeing such beauty that surrounds us that most of the people ignore. techniques can be teached, but surely having a good aestetic sense don’t. It’s a matter of talent, and mroe tan effort on conviction and matter, a deisgner isn¡t made up of degrees, a designer builds it self up by researching, reading, experimenting, listeing… by applyion all the semiotic and sense material it have up in his mind, surely is most about talent than effort.

  15. I agree to an existent that it “is much easier to learn to use the tool than to learn to have a good aesthetic sense.” But also; taking the time to quote, from the film Ratatouille the big chef Linguini said, “Any one can cook.” Anyone can design and a good aesthetic sense can be taught. You need to teach inspiration, what influenced other great designers, great designers didn’t just stumble across good design although some did get lucky, you need to show more just looking at other peoples work and acknowledging what works and what doesn’t but teach and show in a kinaesthetic manner, like the way you would teach your self or someone else to draw and bring that inspiration into the work. Don’t just leave it on the side with all that ‘back up work’ in a neatly bound pile.

  16. This article really struck home. I think designing is harder than many people give credit for. If you have no inspiration, how can you design?
    People can be creative but they need to find what their outlet of creativity is, what their ‘niche’ is. Design is natural talent but twinned with the perseverance and hard work it takes to finish a design. Both are needed for a successful design, and unlike many other ti=ypes of outlets, both talent and hard work are needed for design.

  17. i’m a self taught designer as well and can categorize myself above many degree-holder designers.
    If you are a right brainer, there isn’t anything tough on the way..

  18. I think talent is huge but passion along with hardwork and being real with yourself is what really feeds the flame.
    d3sign3r, I’m glad you classify yourself as a great designer. Your heavy use of effects over substance makes your lack of education evident. Be honest with yourself and only then you will grow. 😀

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