“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
This quote by Coach Taras Brown has been used to describe basketball player Kevin Durant. I feel that it applies to just about every type of work in existence. Every person has a talent for something, but if it is not combined with hard work there will be limited success.
Do you need talent as a designer, or can you still achieve good design with hard work alone?
My first stint in art school was a real eye opener due to the huge variety of students enrolled. In many ways it was disappointing. When you want to design for a living and grow as an artist, you also want to be surrounded by like minds and talent. It was very obvious that many students loved the idea of being a designer or artist, yet had no talent for it. But somehow they felt that they could learn how to become one. Herein lies the question, can hard work alone create a good designer?
With few exceptions, my answer is no. I have participated in discussions about this and many people have argued yes, you can become a good designer with just hard work. But from my experience, those with no talent drop out of school quickly within the first year, or they are not able to get work. Anyone can learn the mechanics of a particular job or skill, and by mechanics I mean, software, basic rules of design, color theory, history. But those that excel also have the talent.
I do not say any of this to be cruel, it is a basic necessity for the field of graphic design. Creating artwork needs a designer’s eye. That is a “duh” statement, but it is direct and true. I can learn basic math, but truthfully I really suck at it. I have no talent for numbers. Being good with numbers is a talent, and I know my limitations and abilities with numbers. I would never consider a career as a Math teacher, Astronomer, CPA or Engineer. I would fail miserably. I wish more people would realize their limitations with art and design. Those that drop out early are making a very difficult but good decision to switch gears and discover what they are truly talented at. I can never fault someone for trying, but they would most likely never be successful in the design field. And successful to me means making a living in design. It does not always mean fame and fortune.
I did say there are exceptions. These exceptions are when somebody works hard and becomes a good designer, never knowing that they truly had a talent for it. I have known people to change their career paths later in life when they discovered a talent for something other than what they received their degree in. And as with any talent, some will possess more than others.
Curse the Computer
Computers have been a blessing and a curse for us. They have created bad designers which have hurt and cheapened our industry. You could argue that it is not the computer’s fault, but here is why I believe it is. Now that they are affordable to the masses, too many individuals are now armed with a computer, a few fonts and a some software. They now feel that the software will do the design work for them—just as the calculator might process some numbers that I could not calculate by myself with pen and paper. These “Pseudo Designers” are out there marketing themselves and competing for jobs. They do not even possess any of the mechanics I mentioned above because they have not attended even one year of schooling that might have taught them SOMETHING about design. All that comes from this scenario is really bad design, and no clue how to truly help the client.
Computers have also created lazy people— designers that have talent but do not utilize it. This might be a designer that steals work from others (very easy to do on the computer), or one that relies only on the basic tools of the computer. When people do not push themselves outside of a comfort zone, they become complacent and boring. This is why hard work and talent need to come together. We need both to create successful work in any field. Even the most talented in their field, if they do not broaden their abilities, will not find success. This is the moment when hard work can best talent.
Therefore, I do not feel that hard work alone makes a successful designer, nor will talent alone. We still need to work hard while using our talents.