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Being a Female, What is your Clothing Style?


Last weekend my niece was too insistent, asking me to accompany her to an exhibition at her Design School. She believed that I will be taken aback by the remarkable design projects of fresh grads and trust me I did not regret my approval. However, looking at the creative artpieces of those young chaps made a question tick in my mind, which we all don’t think of answering seriously.

Why was it that all the students from the same college, same badge with the same graphic design lessons did not come up with equally remarkable work? Today I want you all to help me clear this confusion… when so many people are going through the same educational process but why only few succeed to come up with extraordinary creations?

In my opinion it’s the gifted spark which is possessed by few people. I’ve heard the argument so many times that art can be learned, but I think people with the natural right artistic sense can only succeed. The vast information available on net has made it easy for people (without any sense of design and aesthetics) to claim themselves as graphic designers. A non artistic person can be taught about designing but I don’t honestly think they can truly create a good design.

I strongly believe that design lessons and degrees can "one" one’s skills to a certain level of perfection but if someone lacks the imaginative talent, he can’t be a successful designer. There are so many people who have successfully obtained their designer degrees from top universities who can become “good” designers, but will never be “great”. If there’s not at least some of that innate thing we call “talent” though, there is no way to get it.

However, many people strongly believe that an individual can be whatever he wants to be, no matter if he is not bestowed with any god-given talent, just practise and determination can fill in the space.

How many of you agree that hard work, determination and motivation are such crucial requirements to achieve success, which talent cannot do? Well, my vote goes for “Talent”…let’s see how you guys have valid points to prove your opinion.


  1. Kyle Gile On July 8th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    You have a very good point here.

    This is something that has somewhat come to mind. I see grad students come out of a design school all the time. Some I am extremely impressed with, others not so much.

    One thing I did notice about the grad students, is that even before they went through school they still had a strong portfolio.

    The ones that I was not very impressed with, usually had no portfolio at all before school. If they did, it was usually not too impressive at a professional level.

    This just goes to show that education is not everything. It is definitely a big plus, however in my opinion a strong portfolio and a very imaginative mind is what makes a designer truly succeed.

    Great article.

  1. Cynthia Kastner-Fioretti On July 8th, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I agree that talent pays a HUGE roll in a graphic designer’s ability to succeed. Like everything else in life, though, i think that hard work, dedication, and LUCK are crucial as well. Is a vote for the perfect balance acceptable? :)

  1. Cory On July 8th, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Good article, thanks!

    IMO, I think design school does what its supposed to do, and that is teach you how to use the many tools that are necessary for design. Whether that would be software, or how to use different mediums, there are just too many ways to create design that its necessary for schools to exist to teach them.

    That being said, its how you use those resources that makes you a great designer, and I’ve seen the best designers go above and beyond what is taught in design school.

    I never had the opportunity for formal design school, my education came in marketing and advertising, but I have taught myself many of today’s techniques (using creative suite). Its been a very difficult road over the years without being taught “the right way”, but I have never had a lack of creativity - only many nights of frustration trying to figure out how to get Photoshop to create what I see in my head.

  1. Alex On July 8th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    A wise man once said about DJing:
    “digging (for records) wont make a bad DJ good, but it will make a good DJ better.”

    put into context, education wont make a bad designer good, but will make a good designer better.
    Talent and education on their own are mediocre, the two combined are exceptional.

  1. -F On July 8th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    If you ask me, it’s a bit of both. After some design lessons, anyone can make a design that’s somewhere between decent and pretty good. Some people will take longer then others, and may have to put in more effort, but everyone can make a pretty good design. Talent is what elevates the pretty good designs to great designs.

    On the other hand, somebody oozing with talent can be a very bad designer if he doesn’t know a thing about typography, composition and the likes.

    It’s just like every other trade. Everybody with two working hands and some lessons can make a pretty serviceable table and matching chairs. A born woodworker without any education can make a beautiful table that falls apart when you touch it.

  1. Richard On July 8th, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I was at uni just over a year ago. I studied a FdA in Digital Media Production (a mixed bag) at London College of Communication (Part of University of the Arts London). Generally this is considered one of the best unis for that arts but after being there for 2 years I can tell you. It’s not, at all.

    The teaching is slack and uninformed, they have poor equipment, and are badly disorganized. However, a large number of the students there produce some amazing work, MUCH better than the teachers own work.

    The correlation between the students and high quality work was not defined by how hard they studied the course materials or even if they got a high grade in each of the modules.

    The students who produced the best work dossed around in class, they were simply buying time while they developed their skills on their own. They took enormous pride in their personal work or the projects that perked their interest, and took very little notice of what the course material was. They were 100% committed to design, development or their chosen specialty, basically living the cliche of eat, sleep, breathe .

    So my point is I think you can learn design, but you have to drive yourself. I don’t think it can be taught. This can also give the illusion of "natural talent", but I don’t think it’s natural at all, it’s a drive to be good at what they do, and so they learn, HARD.


  1. Richard On July 8th, 2009 at 10:18 am

    It appears as though your system has eaten my text contained in “<”. It is mean to say “eat, sleep, breathe {their subject}”.

  1. Jonathan On July 8th, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Research carried out in to the success of graduates from a London fashion degree found that the most successful relied on networks built up during their studies rather than skills.
    Sociologists call this social capital (who you know). Cultural capital (what you know - this doesn’t include “skills” but means knowledge of the field such as who’s doing what, where things are happening) is important too.
    Being able to keep track of the ins and outs of the business you’re in, and being able to network, are far more important than technical skill. So the most “successful” designers are the “creative” ones who are in the right place at the right time and who can bring the right people on board at the right time. The “artworkers” are the grunts.
    Sadly, many students attend courses to get technical skills. And even more tragically many courses only focus on those. Technical skill, which is what you see at shows like the one you went to, don’t tell you about the person’s actual abilities as a designer. Trust me - I’ve taught more design graduates than I’ve had hot dinners and the ones I’m proudest of are rarely the ones who put up the best show.

    So what I’m saying is define “good” and “great”. I teach design and I have been a designer for 20 years. But I’m self-taught. So I’m a big believer in not needing a qualification. But I don’t teach people “how to” design, but “about” design (which means “the world” in my book). Because if you’re great at photoshop but haven’t any intellectual curiosity, you’ll never be a “designer”, only an “artworker”.
    However if you have intellectual curiosity, but can’t tell one end of a mouse from another, you have the makings of a designer. The design process is much bigger than you’d think looking at the curriculum of most design courses (which emphasise technical skill over “knowledge”)

    And a designer isn’t defined by the ability to “appreciate good design” but by the ability to think creatively. I know many, many excellent designers who have crap taste. It really doesn’t matter.

    This argument is old and can always be answered logically: there are great designers who have poor taste, and/or poor technical skills. There are great designers who have great taste and/or great technical skills. Equally there are rubbish designers who fit those categories.

    At the end of the day designers are more made than born, but much of it relies on the environment - opportunity, networks - rather than “talent” as I think you’re defining it. A designer in London will likely be more successful than a designer in the middle of nowhere because they can’t walk down a street without tripping over an opportunity. But the “skill” lies in taking advantage of it. And sadly you won’t have seen that evidenced in the show you went to…

  1. Richard Holt On July 8th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I do believe you can get better at design, that’s really half the fun - but I’m certain not everyone can be a great designer. Just the same as I would happily admit I’m never going to be a singer, a magician or a rugby player, I’m just not wired up like that or have those unique talents. I also wouldn’t dream of telling my dentist or a skilled electrician how to do their job, as I don’t have their experience and knowledge. You’re going to need both talent and experience to be a good designer.

    Saw this a while back, these guys definitely think you can learn design, but amazingly, they think you need only set aside three months:



  1. lecritducube On July 8th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I definitely agree that hard work can help you be better, but talent is just exactly what will make the difference.
    Check out Jean Michel Basquiat’s work. It seems his paintings were come out of him (can we say that in english ??) All his work is so equilibrated and well constructed.
    Some painters work a lot, every day, but will just never be Jean Michel Basquiat.
    Graphic design can follow that rule too…

  1. Simon Minter On July 8th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    A good designer would never use the horrific clip art seen at the top of this post, let alone that terrible typeface…

  1. Chris Grayson On July 9th, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Some combination of the two. This is such an old debate. Oh, and I agree with Simon, above.

  1. gris carcani On July 9th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    some of the worst designers I’ve met have masters degrees. go figure.
    some of the best don’t have a HS diploma.

  1. blkjck On July 9th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Just like eating. Natural talent earlier. Learning and practice later. A good design could let people understand easier and love it.

  1. A u d e e On July 9th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I think you need both natural talent and formal design education to bring some levels of quality in your work. Natural talent could be just an intuitive creative move without any theory to guide the whole design process. But now the interwebs provides the juicy resources which every talented designer can access them without finding any problem. So, in my opinion.. it is not always design degrees that challenges us to be a successful Graphic Designer, but.. it is how far you learn from every source of information, to sharpen your talent and implement it in a well manner. You can get design degrees from anywhere nowadays :D

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On July 10th, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Hey fellows….thanks to you all for stopping by on GDB to drop your opinions. It was a real pleasure to read your comments but I would like to answer few of my friends in particular.


    @KYLE GILE…you seem to be agreeing with me that no matter how many design degrees you have but without the natural talent you can’t be a big hit.


    @ CORY…I really felt nice knowing how you you have become successful without going to any design school.You have also bought another point to light….you have to go beyond your learnings in a school, which only your talent can let you do.

    @ ALEX….Nice thought: "Education wont make a bad designer good, but will make a good designer better."


    @ -F, Chris Grayson,Audee,Blkjck…you all seem to vote for having a combination of both saying natural talent and formal design education take your work to a level of perfection. But guys don’t you think basically one needs to have a talent which can be sharpened by education further…so Talent is the important part.


    @CYNTHIA KASTNER…You seem to firmly believe in LUCK. Well, I am sure you will agree that every person is talented but in his own ways. So, I would say if someone does not have a talent in a particular field he should not pursue it.

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On July 10th, 2009 at 1:05 am

    @ Richard….thanks for leaving such a detailed opinion about the topic. Honestly, I was shocked to learn the information you provided about FDA which I also considered among best universities.


    I loved the way you have voted for "Talent" saying "The students who produced the best work dossed around in class":-)funny. It’s true that many designers with big stack of degrees have developed their skills on their own because of the talent they possessed.


    Although you are not plainly voting for "Talent" but trust me dude, it is the natural gift let designers come up with extra ordinary creations

  1. Nigel Ball On July 10th, 2009 at 3:34 am

    I second Jonathan’s comments above and I’m afraid I bulk at the terms ‘natural, gifted and god-given’. When children spell something wrong at primary school they are told they’ve done it wrong, when they draw something, regardless of its merit, they are praised. This sends out confusing messages. Creativity is not taken as seriously at ‘formal’ education. Therefore those that maybe aren’t as good at spelling tend to veer towards practical subjects because they get the praise at an early age. This has nothing to do with talent and the old adage the more you do something the better you get at it when applied from such an early age, must have effect on future life choices and how well you do something.

    However, there are so many other factors that mold a student before they get to university that have also got to be factored into any discussion such as this. What about background, financial support, encouragement from a young age, choices at school, style of teaching at secondary school, disabilities guiding choices etc etc etc. Who is the measurer of talent in such a subjective field and where does ‘talent’ come from?

    I would argue that it is experience and enthusiasm that are the factors that should be being discussed here and most importantly how one chooses to apply these. I’ve seen very talented, but lazy students throw their chances away and produce, frankly, shockingly bad work when I know they can do better. I’ve also seen students with little initial ‘talent’ go a very long way with the right support, encouragement and enthusiastic guidance.

    You also have to consider the numbers of students on a course and contact time between students and lecturers. On a course that attracts lots of students, then the ratios are going to be huge and some students, the shy, the less ‘gifted’, the ones with issues outside of education, are going to sink and not get the attention they need.

    And ultimately I would hate to think that this sort of elitist attitude would put off students who maybe think they don’t have ‘talent’. Are you proposing finishing schools or is this education we are discussing here?

  1. Cheryl On July 10th, 2009 at 7:36 am

    My DH has an art degree. I do not. I am WAY more “creative” in my thinking process than he is, but he has the technical training I lack. He always says he wishes he had my creative ideas. I used to wish I had the tools needed to exercise and create my creative ideas and bring them into fruition. THAT is the part that can be learned / taught easily, because now I can.

    I think coming up with the new and fresh ideas is the hard part! Tools are tools. I can have the greatest idea for a beautiful, sleek, innovative boat, but if I can’t build it, what’s the point?

    I think it is more difficult to teach someone to think creatively, though it can be done. A good place to start is with drawing classes rather than technical classes which utilize the left brain. Exercises in expressive painting and arts where there are no rules to follow are helpful.

    This argument is really true of any field. Some have a natural ability and some try way too hard. For me I know I am being truly creative when “I” disappear for a while - I slip into that zone. The best feeling ever! I am always amazed when I talk to a fellow artist who has never experienced the zone. I always think, “They are not following their true passion!”

    But hey, the world definitely needs production artists!

  1. Denton On July 10th, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Each of us is born with certain degrees of given talents. Some us have more, some of us have less. Not much we can do about that.

    People who develop their talents have developed skills. Highly talented, dedicated people develop skills more rapidly. Folks with huge talents who dedicate themselves to developing skills that express their talents produce the best work. Folks with little talent who exercise a strong work ethic are capable of producing good work. Folks with little talent and a weak work ethic should look for a different calling.

  1. Shea On July 10th, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I’ve heard this debate in several different forms through out my life. I place a lot of value in a “formal design education.” The way that full time school immerses a student in design is an experience that is hard to duplicate (not that it can’t be, just more difficult). However, no amount of training will EVER make a designer out of someone who simply isn’t.

    I graduated from a BFA graphic design program with a kid who couldn’t design anything to save his life. I was a little irked that on paper this guy had the same qualifications that I did. But I also knew that 2 seconds looking at his portfolio would convince anyone that design was not going to be his job. Last I heard he was a clerk at an electronics store. I just started my own design firm and things are going well. The work always speaks for itself.

  1. countzeero On July 10th, 2009 at 11:12 am

    At the end of the day nothing is going to help you more than Talent if you are going to Succeed, not just as a Designer but at anything in Life. A Degree is no replacement for Talent - although the hard work required to gain one is the best way to bring out any Talents you may have… I don´t think Talent is an Elitist concept either, Degree Waving is Elitist, and I much prefer to be recognized for any of my Talents, however minimal they are- than for my Academical Qualifications. We are all born with Talents and it is up to ourselves to recognize and nurture those talents and to use them however we see fit. To be honest I nearly got thrown out of my diploma course at college for my “Talents” “and setting a bad example” by partying and fooling around while maintaining a 90+ average. I think instead of being Elitist about needing Talent and Degrees we should be being kind and educating those aspiring to being Great Designers.

  1. Trevor Collins On July 10th, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I agree completely. Whilst a good training course will help give you the tools to use your talent, it will not give you the talent in the first place.

  1. Judi Wunderlich On July 10th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Glad to see this subject discussed! I’ve been reviewing designers’ work for over 25 years, first as the head of creative at a Fortune 100 company, then as a creative recruiter.

    My opinion is that creative talent is not teachable, it is innate. So if someone who was born with it goes to college (assuming a decent school), they will come out well. But if someone without an iota of talent decides to spend their (or their parents’) hard-earned money on 4 years of design study, they will more than likely finish school poor and with dismal employment opportunities if they insist they want a design job.

    Reputable universities, like SCAD or RISD, would screen-out people seeking to study design if they are completely talentless. However far too many of the ‘for profit’ colleges, like Westwood or those online universities, have no qualms about encouraging a talentless person into pursuing a design degree because all they are interested in is signing up another student. I wish this travesty could be corrected.

    So I agree with the others here who have stated that schooling will make a good designer better, but will not make ANYONE into a designer.

  1. On July 10th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    A degree in design is a great stepping stone. It will help designers to gain a bit of an edgy when they try to find jobs. Much like other fields…someone with a degree or certificate will more likely to find a job than the ones who don’t. But “talent” in the graphic design industry plays a super important role. Not just talent though….I think “attitude” and “passion” also play strong roles for those who ultimately become successful in the industry.

    I am more likely to hire someone who is passionate but with mediocre design skill than someone who is super talented but with lack of passion or bad attitude.

  1. Sayz On July 10th, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    I guess you’re not talking on the education but whether someone can achieve their goal with hardwork and dedication alone.

    For me, talent is something to ease up your learning process. Like sport, people who have talent can learn the basic quicker, they are creative in making a new strategy etc.

    As for designer, it is also the same. There are many people can become designer, the difference is their level, people with talent learn faster, make breakthrough, and usually have their ownstyle.

    But it doesn’t mean someone who doesn’t have talent can’t surpass them. Almost everything in this world can be learned, it just the time and how perfect they can master.

    So my vote goes for “enthusiasm” (honestly, usually people with talent in their area will have enthusiasm)

  1. Gopal Raju On July 11th, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Skills and passion first, Design schools second!

    Gopal Raju

  1. supremegraphx On July 11th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    yea this is very true.. i know how to use all these programs.but alot of times i need that inspirational spark!!

  1. alex On July 11th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Passion and drive are more important than education in graphic design…

    I have only recently managed to move into paid graphic design work. It took me 5 years of playing and freelancing for low fees in my spare time to work up my confidence, skills and gain a professional understanding of the complete adobe suite.

    I wish I had had the chance to study graphic design… Instead I studied engineering (weird choice I know!). But I think sometimes it can be the case that as soon you are being forced to learn something you passion can dry up!

    Now additional to the editorial design work I’m doing with a uk magazine but keeping my juices flowing my producing a t-shirt design everyday at

    This will hopefully lead to a really varied portfolio next time round!

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On July 13th, 2009 at 12:34 am

    @Nigel Ball….I would like to thank you and Jonathan for bringing out new point from this debate


    @Judi Wunderlich…it’s an honour to have such a design-familiar person sharing his views over this topic with us.I would like to requote your intelligent suggestion once again:

    "If someone without an iota of talent decides to spend their (or their parents’) hard-earned money on 4 years of design study, they will more than likely finish school poor and with dismal employment opportunities if they insist they want a design job."


    @Sayz…my friend I have referred to hard work and deication as "Design Degree" because I have seen many students working damn hard in their universisties but if they don’t have the natural spark, they fail to succeed.


    @supremegraphx, Gopal Raju…thnks for the confession ;)


    @ Kaidesign…I think you also have a valid point. Many super talented people are just not very passionate about their work but I think here design degrees also don’t help them much being motivated.

  1. Toby Elwin On July 13th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Talent is difficult to anoint, it takes a level of foundational understanding and perhaps a commitment to individuality (Howard Roark) to retain your views, your principles, and your unique perspective to your craft.

    However, in the professional world the choice to work with someone is less a technical case than a personality case.

    There are some great thoughts around emotional intelligence, often called EQ and the advantage EQ has over IQ. A link:

    Another interesting take is Outliers and Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule:

    I think talent can be coached/mentored, I think social skills can as well and the social awareness (EQ) might indicate a larger trajectory for sustained success.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog.

    I have some business blogs around motivation, leadership, and talent at:

  1. Tony On July 15th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I’ll Go For Talent Too..!!
    And Practice make them better.
    Without a Talent and if practice it would be harder, In my opinion great designers go to universities for a certificate cux without it they cant get a job, so better to have a Portfolio from your very young age,

  1. aj On July 15th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    look for 2 graphic designer that just got out of school in the l.a. area cailf who seeking a great jobs .

  1. ash On July 15th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I use to think talent can be taught, but the older I get, the more I feel different. Sure, everyone is born with that creative portion in their brain, but like every other muscle in your body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s why most of us have good imaginations when we’re little. Society has taught us not to use our imaginations—that it’s all “kid stuff.” A lot of us tend to listen to that.

  1. Rishi Sinha On July 17th, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Eventually when the talented ones get into the industry, rejection and experience teach them well.

  1. aronthen On July 19th, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I think that a successful designer will be someone who read. knowledge is a powerful tool, that designers should have in order to create a outstanding art. Education is a must for a designer to understand the basic of designing. Talent…., I do believe it is the sole element that most of us strongly believes that differentiate the successful and not successful designer. I think, what makes a person creative is how he/she sees the world.(world view, value).

  1. Maxx Steinmetz On July 20th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I agree, that taught students can make adequate designs, and that talented persons are the ones to break any ground. however, the problem of networking and pleasing the client is what it is all about.

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On July 21st, 2009 at 1:03 am

    @ Toby Elwin…thanks for sharing the knowledge about EQ with us. I checked interesting your recommendation of "Outliers and Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule"…amazing.


    @ Maxx Steinmetz…you are right that we all are in the race of pleasing our clients but don’t you think the "talented designers" please them better.


    @Rishi Sinha…I agree that talented designers also face rejection and bad experience but I firmly believe, when given a chance they turn out to be real pioneers.


    Thanks to all the talented people who commented to share their views over this contoversial topic.

  1. Joshua On July 23rd, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Well, according to “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (one of my favorite drawing books), artistic talent is within us all, some people just decide to ignore it at a young age, then convince themselves that they have none.

    To an extent I have to agree, anyone can “learn” to be an artist, but it has more to do with unlocking imagination and creativity. Design schools don’t do this for people though. Removing some horrible mental block should be the first goal of anybody seeking to be a graphic designer, so that they could have some of the ‘talent’ before seeking an education.

    I’ve always been an artistic person, myself, but I think an education is important, as well. So my vote goes to both “Talent” and “Degree.” Just hope that an art school doesn’t kill your creativity.

  1. Jose Martinez On July 24th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    I strongly Believe that natural given talent plays a huge roll and it could be learned. To be successful you need to learn from others, learn how to be technical in certain cases, and know your art history at the same time. Natural talent is great but success is limited. Especially when it comes do to a money aspect. You can be a phenomenal designer but if your text placement is off, or the message doesn’t get a across how its meant to be you will fail when it comes to getting commissioned for your work.

    And yes you can learn to be an artist because at the end of the day art is art. Its a freedom of expression and sometimes the best art isnt technical or even understood. Its in the eye of the beholder.

  1. Carina On July 25th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Well, I’d say those who think that they’ve got talent wish talent was more important, thus they said it was, and those who’ve worked hard for getting big degrees probably said degrees were more important, lol. You need education as well as talent, as well as hard work and the willingness to learn and to improve. I’m afraid NONE of them maybe left behind.

  1. Rotua Siagian On July 27th, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Talent + Passion + Knowledge = Success

  1. Roberto Blake On July 28th, 2009 at 6:28 am

    I really feel that it is in fact a combination of both. Personally design school served the purpose of teaching me a great deal about design principles, objectives, and goals. It even introduced me to the basic tools within most of the adobe applications, and some applications I wasn’t even aware of and their uses, and which was appropriate for which task. As an illustrator I was always creative to begin with, and one thing I didn’t get in design school was a any of the advanced skills or basic work flows that I use as a designer to accomplish specific task to today. I learned what I know about web design well before I went to collage, I learned about retouching through trial and error, as well as the books of Scott Kelby! In truth my real education in graphic design and evolution as a designer began when I took my first full time industry job working as the only designer for an IT company.
    So yes you do in fact need both, but in addition to that experience will be the best teacher. Education gives you a firm foundation to work with, and creativity and natural talent will give you drive, time will handle the rest.

  1. Dan Contogiannis On July 31st, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I think that there are several things to look at when discovering exactly what it was that has made a successful designer… successful.
    Artistic talent is something that can’t be taken away, but honing those skills is almost as important as having them in my opinion.
    Passion and the drive to do something with the talent, and of course having talent and drive doesn’t necessarily mean a person has the social skill or business sense to obtain the opportunities it takes to become successful.

    my two cents.

  1. Lillian Davenport-Partac On August 9th, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I was hoping this wouldn’t be an article about the merits of self-taught designers vs. degreed designers, and thank goodness, it was not.

    Does it really matter if someone is only destined to become a “good” designer? Whether or not they are creative masterminds, hopefully it is something they enjoy doing, and wouldn’t imagine their lives any other way. Many people are born to never rock the boat. We need them so that we may get raises and they don’t! (kidding.)

  1. Kaplang On August 9th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I do not believe graphic design is something that can be taught without their firstly being some form of talent and artistic gift.

  1. A On August 11th, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I saw the same thing happen with my interior design schooling. Some people gained skills but still lacked the creative spark while other used newly gained skills to hone their creative talent to something amazing. Some people no matter how hard they worked never got anywhere, producing mediocre design work.

    I agree there needs to be a balance but I believe that if you don’t have the creative spark find something you excel at, everyone has talent.

  1. ash On August 12th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    @ Joshua: EXACTLY! Everyone is born with that creative portion in their brains. It’s just like every other muscle in the body—if you don’t use it, you lose it. As we grow up, we’re forced to believe that our imaginations will not get us very far in the “real business world.” So most people put more emphasis on math, english and history. After a while, we, as adults, forget how to use that creative portion.

  1. @jenclas On August 14th, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I agree with for the most part but I also think that there is another component that is a degree for success. Self confidence. I have met many people with natural raw artistic talent that do not grow because they lack the self confidence needed to turn their abilities into actions.

    I think a successful designer needs a combination of talent, knowledge and the challenges that come from exposure to different mediums and basic principals + a good dose of self belief and desire to grow = success.

  1. Sipiwe On August 14th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    The lack of actual emphasis on the fundamentals of what constitutes good design are being lost as more and more people think that owning a computer and a couple of expensive design programs make you a graphic designer. The market is saturated with self proclaimed graphic designer who have not learned the fundamentals of design. This in turn makes it harder for those of us who have slaved through design school and payed our dues to command the salaries we deserve as less qualified individuals do work for low rates and churn out horrible designs that make all of us look bad as designers.

  1. sandrine henkinbrant On August 19th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I think what’s more important to learn before how to use illustrator or photoshop is about the past and the origin of graphic design. When I went to university 15 years ago, we learned the 3 first years all about art, design, typography and so much interesting things. When you really love design, you see the world with designer eyes and I think that makes the difference between someone who just use the computer to design something and someone who use his brain to create something.

  1. Roberto Blake On August 20th, 2009 at 7:01 am

    @SIPIWE I would have to agree that the industry is being devalued by the idea that owning a computer and opening up Photoshop or Illustrator makes you a graphic designer. It is also unfortunate that the market is so over-saturated with these professed graphic designers.

    I feel the best thing we can do is continue to educate clients, and do what we can to raise the bar and widen the gap between actual graphic designers and these others, as well as educate them as to what good design really is.

  1. Victoria On September 16th, 2009 at 4:57 am

    Acquiring knowledge and techniques can make you a good engineer or constructor, but when it’s a matter of art, you should have at least a little bit tallent. The combination tallent plus education could make you a really good designer.

  1. Laura On September 26th, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Rather than talent vs education, I think it’s more about recognizing that graphic design as art will ALWAYS be subjective – to the artist, other artists and to the client. Knowledge of the field (education) is vital and necessary to create great work that utilizes the formal “rules” of graphic design (and there ARE rules); creativity and skill (talent & application) are vital to breaking outside of those set rules to produce something great and innovative.

    But who says what is “good” design, then? The artist who followed the rules but may not seem as talented? The artist who broke outside the box but whose ideas seem a little too creative? Or the client who pays for work that is effective but perhaps not what the artist would choose? Sure there will be a point where all three align, however to my point – talent and education are both relevant but subjectivity still remains at the top. Can you measure artistic talent, really? I’d like to hear what people think about Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” – talented artistically, intellectually or just crazy? Subjective. And that is where graphic design as a customer service industry gets tricky – we aim to please 1) the client 2) ourselves 3) our peers/idols.

    Regarding talent vs education though, as people have mentioned, a certain level of talent is innate but it can also be refined. What is considered little talent can be made large with determination, effort and practice. What is considered big talent can be made greater in the same way. Still, it is subjective because graphic design at its essence is art, and people will always differ in opinion on that subject.

  1. Laura On September 26th, 2009 at 1:28 am

    And that is where graphic design as a customer service industry gets tricky – we aim to please 1) the client 2) ourselves 3) our peers/idols, using the skills and knowledge gained by experience, research and understanding EFFECTIVE design rather than “good” design.

  1. blakeflores On September 29th, 2009 at 8:57 am

    As a graduate with a degree in graphic arts, I have to say that no doubt without the talent or as you term it ‘the spark,’ few can really excel. When it comes to the arts especially, this is never more true. However, graphic arts degree was extremely intensive and combined a blend of pure art and creativity as well as hardcore computer training and project work. Without the hard work and determination needed, I don’t believe I would have gotten to where I am today.

  1. Don Elliott On October 2nd, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    As a designer and employer of designer for over 10 years I would have to say real-world experience and drive trumps both schooling and talent. I have lost thousands of dollars on talented people and educated people over the years, but I have never lost money on a designer who has experience ‘in the real world’ combined with personal drive. That person is INVALUABLE to me. As for myself, I went to school for English….go figure…

    Great post Charlie!

  1. wmDESIGN On October 5th, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Maybe it’s too late to post my comment.

    It is a fact that natural talents is the main factor to success in graphic design world. Grad student of art rarely to make a masterpiece of art because they were always follow the same pattern and method that they learn from their formal education. It’s differ with natural talented designer because they always tend to break the usual with brand new one and unusual because they born creative and imaginative.

    Despite it, the grad student posses a lot of technical skills and making art more efficiently. That’s because they learn how to use the device/equipment for design deeper than natural talented designer (although it can be learn from tutorial, it won’t be easy and fast).

    So, graphic design it’s all about art which need the creativity and imagination as the primary requirement and it can’t be learned. Education is just a way to shape the skills and gain legimation.

    Remember that a cat can’t be a lion and a lion need to learn how to become a true predator…


  1. Louay On October 28th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Hey, well I met experienced designers with many degrees and huge cv with portfolio, but they really are bad designers. The only thing they can do now is to manage a design department.

    And I even met young passionate boys and girls that are amazing designers even before going to college.

    So I think that TALENT is our answer and then experience comes as a plus with the degree in order to release creativity.

    Well I was a very bad designer before going to college and maybe I was not even a designer but I knew I had talent somewhere so college helped me to develop this potential I have and to get more knowledge.

    Now I teach design and I have a design firm. But 10 years ago I was just an undiscovered potential.

    And here we arrive to a point where we can c that college even helps individual to discover there potential and to develop it even; I we have the will. Thank you for this debate.

    Well am writing now a book and it helped me alot.

    Am always open to suggestions but am talking here about a career experience.

    Just keep smiling and work for fun and u can reach it if u have it. :):):):)

  1. Trevor On October 30th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I personally think that it is down to work. A ‘natural’ designer is just someone who dose not view his research as work. As such he is always thinking about it and looking for inspiration when out and about.

  1. Deb On November 6th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    There are typos in the article. Maybe spell check next time? It’s practice not practise.

  1. chris On November 10th, 2009 at 6:43 am

    I agree. Not just because a designer graduated in a graphics school she/he can be successful without talent. There is a lot of designer out their who didn’t go to graphic school but we can say they are successful because they have the talent.

  1. Krishan On November 12th, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Education wont make a bad designer good, but will make a good designer better.

  1. Krishan On November 12th, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Education is not a matter of good designer its all about the creative mind of others. best of luck.

  1. Doug C. On November 16th, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I believe Remy (the food-loving rat from Ratatouille) said it best, “Yes, anyone can cook. That doesn’t mean anyone should.”

  1. SentinelArt On November 16th, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Absolutely both - tallent and education, because education helps to operate better with tallent one has. And tallent gives original ideas, gives inspiration, a special deep understanding and exclusive realization. Just that different designers/artists have different proportion of both.

  1. logo design On November 19th, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    natural talent is the things to become a successful graphic designer and needs a lot of hardwork and actual application to perfect it

  1. stevewizard On November 20th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I am a print-broker and I do most of my own design work. I have had no formal training in design but have worked with coreldraw for 20 years. On top of it all I am colour blind. Most of my customers love my designs. I don’t always know what makes something look good, but I always know when something looks bad - and there is a lot of bad out there. One the other hand asthetically pleasing composion is not always what sells and most of the time it is what sells that is important. So it would seem that I am coming down on the side of natural talent, but truely I am only a mediocre designer and often wish I was formally trained. When design work goes over my head, I simply broker that out too.

  1. Laurent JOUVIN On November 23rd, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Absolutely both! They go hand in hand and complement each other.
    However, if you only had to have one, I believe natural talent is the most essential one of the 2. The knowledge (design degrees) will only solidify the natural talent and passion for art.
    And if I may add one more to those proposed skills, it is experience.

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  1. Michael On December 7th, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Having attended and taught at graphic design schools, in my opinion they are a huge waste of time and money. The most important things you learn in art school (color, composition, contrast, history) are taught in the first year. After that it just falls apart. You get nonsensical projects with ridiculously long time lines and little real world feedback. I think designers would be better off apprenticing. They’d learn how to do it on the job from a pro. Don’t get me wrong, I liked most of my art teachers, but most of the design instructors were instructors, not out in the real world working. This means that their real world experience wasn’t fresh. Few rarely knew the latest trends, software, hardware, etc.
    Learning the programs is not a reason to attend an art school. Their are about a million how-to books not to mention a plethora of free online tutorials that teach the programs. I’d love to a course called Practical Exposure that gave real projects in real time with real feedback. Not one course I took prepared me for dealing with an art director, account manager, or client. Give them a few hours to knock out a logo or a day to design a web portal home page.

  1. Melissa Bono On December 7th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Natural talent…100% Sure a lot of people can understand the necessity of “negative space” or the psychological use typography but then what are you going to do with that knowledge if you’re not artistically adept? It’s kind of like needing legs to walk…

    After 12 years in design my biggest pet peeve is still: just because you can whip up a cheesy flyer or print some labels that doesn’t MAKE you a graphic designer nor prove you’re all that artistic.

  1. Tasha Pain On December 7th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I think that the natural talent is nourished through what you learn in uni, design school etc and therefore able to use this knowledge to create your own designs.

    Even if one isn’t naturally artistic, the experience of going through a design education can change your abilities and open the mind as to how you can approach a certain design-related problem.

    This is what I’ve found through my experience and currently in my third year in Visual Communication, there is alot more to learn keeping this topic remains very much open.

  1. Sharon Knight On December 9th, 2009 at 3:25 am

    If anyone is still reading this and can respond, I am seriously contemplating a design degree, I have been a natural artist all my life, so much so that I took it for granted, and am now thinking if I were to train I would enhance my skill but so far the design schools are over the top expensive. I am in my early 40′s so hesitant to take on such a huge debt at this stage in my life. Can anyone recommend a school in the San Francisco Bay Area where I can learn the principles of design at a reasonable cost? I have tried my local community college and the classes were quite pedestrian. Are there good, fast paced classes to be had at a community college or vocational school? I am so far teaching myself and I learn pretty quickly - am looking for a challenge without the 100K pricetag. Any suggestions? If so please email

  1. Zeesh On January 1st, 2010 at 2:40 am

    anyone can be a designer, but no one can be a Good designer..

  1. Andy Eaton On January 9th, 2010 at 4:58 am

    I believe that natural talent you should have a little to create unique pieces of work. I have learned and practiced designing all from the web, by watching videos, reading, following tutorials.

    As long as you keep practicing and trying to improve, you can get really good. You also must make sure you have the right tools for the job.

  1. Jodi Salisbury On January 14th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I’m glad that you said “God-given” talent, because that’s just what it is. We are all part of a larger body… the ear cannot do the work of the hand and the foot cannot do the work of the eyes. You get the picture.

    Of course, as *humans* we all (with few exceptions) have the same physical capabilities. So conceivably, yes, we can all attain to be something that we’ve not been *gifted* to do, and we may even do it very well.

    But I believe therein lacks something… perhaps passion, perhaps fulfillment of a specific purpose. I’m not sure.

    You’ve given me something to think about…

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  1. MK On January 26th, 2010 at 10:03 am

    To be a real designer, it takes 3 things and in this order: God given Talent, Design School, Experience. That’s it.

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  1. Fractalwise On February 13th, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I think it’s a combination of skill and talent; but, to be successful, you need to have social skills, technical skills, business knowledge, a good grounding in design fundamentals…the list goes on. You need to research, research, and research! Study everything you can…the Old Painting Masters, design layout, subscribe to magazines such as Advanced Photoshop and 3D Arts (they have resource and tutorial DVDs in them) and, well, the list goes on. It’s like anything else, in that you get out of it what you put into it.

  1. Kristine On February 15th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    God Given Talent is my vote - Schooling may add to the thought processes but doesn’t necessarily make a designer think like one.

  1. Ronald Sekiranda( Kampala Uganda) . On March 3rd, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Talent is everything but without the formal education you cant do much. So a combination of the two you can really excel.
    I personally believe i have the talent,because I can make great pieces by hand, thou I know i can make them better with studied and computer aided materials.

  1. Peter On March 3rd, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Keep doing.

  1. Roncarrmusic On March 17th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I love this. Thanks a lot.

  1. Michael Wills On March 19th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    In my opinion (after teaching college Graphic Design for seven years) I would say that talent is for sure the difference…let’s hear you sing right now?…some people can naturally do it. It may be frustrating but not everyone is fit for every job.

  1. Ali Ahmad Geidam On April 22nd, 2010 at 11:32 am

    i think both helps. You can only use ur naural talent effectively with a degree.

  1. Justin On April 26th, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Education is important, so is talent, but there is so much more involved in design. Critical thinking problem solving, a technical knowledge to prep your art for printing.

    I think education and talent are both important, but one doesn’t cancel out the other. I think the choice of school is imortant too…I was fortunate enough to choose a design school where the instructors demanded alot out of you and pushed you hard and had very high standards, and not only looked at your creativity but your technical skill as well.

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  1. Jason On July 12th, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Great discussion, but sadly there are a lot of people who seem confused. Graphic Design is Visual Communication whilst Art is Creative expression. I see a lot of excellent art being past off these days as design, it’s not. One person commented above “You can be a phenomenal designer but if your text placement is off, or the message doesn’t get a across…” I’m sorry to tell you this but if your text placement is off or the message doesn’t get across you’ve failed as a designer, even though it may be a beautiful piece of art.
    Graphic Design is about communication not pretty pictures

  1. Natasha Page On July 22nd, 2010 at 5:54 am

    No one has mentioned that perhaps no amount of talent of education will be of use without real, heartfelt passion, you can be good, but if you love what you do that’s when you really shine.

  1. Ella T. On July 29th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Possessing a large amount of passion does not equal great design. I know plenty of designers who are passionate about what they do but boy are they awful.
    Technique and processes can be learnt. You can learn how to use software to output a logo or ad etc. But ideas can’t be taught. Great designers have a natural talent to see things in a different way. Their brains just work differently. That’s why there are usually only a handful of great designers who graduate from the same school. They were always going to be great designers.

  1. JuneA On January 7th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I have been to College and University and I also have a performing talent. I have found that formal education stifles creativity and is crowdwd with unnecessary information. We all know that a large percentage of formal edaucation is comprised of courses, not related to the area of interest but necessary to make up credits. In the process ( it depends on the focus of the university or college), students are exhausted and diverted from their creativity, then have to pick it back up when they get their degree.

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  1. Albert On May 17th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Schools give you the rules of how to go about designing something. A great designer knows how to take those rules and break them, in the right way, to be great.

  1. David On May 27th, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    You need three things. Inspiration. Motivation. Creativity. Everyone gets all three at some point. Nothing will come of it it without the other two though. Just because you might get two out of three sometimes, doesn’t mean you stop trying.

    The more you try, the more chance of creating something. Everyone has a talent for at least one of those three areas. An idea just needs the right place and mind.

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  1. Nothin New On July 7th, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    That can be said of all degress. Not everyone who picks a major is gifted at it, not everyone will seek a career in in, and most will be run of the mill employees if they do. The difference is graphic design is like photography…everyone has access to the technology to dabble and claim ownership.

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  1. M On December 20th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    What passes for creativity today is often blatant theft. Talent is often scrutinized and evaluated in such subjective ways that it isn’t recognized (the phrase “ahead of his/her time” comes to mind). Most people have a creative talent, but creative endeavors are often laughed at because they are outside the norm. Most creative people are demoralized at a young age and don’t have the heart to continue. I think the most important quality in a great artist is bravery, moreso than “talent” or skill.

  1. Kyle Smith On April 4th, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    You have an excellent point in this article, but is is possible to achieve talent by hard work and repetition? I mean, could someone get to be professional over time even if they lack the talent in the beginning? Maybe not as I am definitely no expert but I would like to hear someone else’s opinion on this point of view as well. Thanks for the good discussion.

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