Wait, do we really think all that separates a doctor from a janitor is experience?
Also, this topic. Sigh. What's the lesson here that bears repeating? It just makes me think that 98% of designers have chosen the absolute wrong profession if this is the kind of pseudo-nihilistic ethos that needs to be made concrete every other day.
What seperates a doctor from a janitor if not experience? Do you think designers are born with talent and either you have it or not?
I think that's the point. It's the knowledge, which can be transformed into personal experience (either learned or taught).
There is scientific evidence that suggest there is an amalgam of genetic and environmental factors that address that question.
Not 100% sure about the genetic part. But environmental is part of the experience, IMHO.
That might be true if you want to be Einstein, but is designing rocket science?
Out of curiosity, can you share the evidence you have in mind?
What do you mean by evidence? I see the interpretation as thinking exercise.
Steven wrote there is scientific evidence that suggest there is an amalgam of genetic factors. I would like to see the evidence.
I think I sold all my biology textbooks back to the university library. Also, I said amalgam of genetic + environmental factors, not one or the other.
Establishing creative habits and work ethic while you are young can only take your innate abilities in a field so far.
This also applies to passion for something. Regardless of how passionate someone might be about astrophysics, if they don't have the talent to think abstractly and visualize equations, they'll go nowhere in that field.
(in regards to the topic)
As designers, I think we all consider what it means from time to time. If you don't have a firm perspective on what your personal definition of being a designer is and how it ladders up to your professional responsibilities then it's a pretty natural question. "Am I even doing this right? Am I experienced enough to be doing this? Am I even qualified? Can anyone do what I do?" Classic impostor syndrome. That pseudo-nihilistic ethos you mention is pretty compatible with that notion.
But it is only constructive to ask "can anyone be a designer?" in order to understand what "being a designer" means to you. All products, goods and services that are made by humans are designed. So, if you solve or contribute to solving the problem of creating those items, then you are a designer.
Defining design in the broadest sense is as simple as considering a situation and acting to create an improved situation (iterative, novel or otherwise). The reality of it is that we don't design design because we are designers, we are designers because we design.
Designers aren't born like that, in the same way that a janitor or a doctor aren't either. Obviously, we someone is born blind he surely won't be a designer, but anyone who is born with no physical or mental impairment can do anything.
I also believe that genetics plays a part in telling the great from the greatest, but if someone tries hard enough, they will get to be good at anything. Most people just aren't predisposed to try as hard as they can at something.
On a small note, in my post I am referring to the case of web design, as "design" in itself is much more than that.
Do we really think all that separates a doctor from a janitor is experience?
Yes, literally. (Well, and environment and opportunity)
The same skills that makes someone a good janitor—troubleshooting maintenance issues, knowing how certain chemicals work together, or coordinating a team to solve a problem—may also make that person a good doctor.
Your environment and opportunities point you to the profession to apply your skills. Has zero to do with innate, "natural-born" talent.
This sounds more a political statement than a scientific one. I don't think the latter is on your side.
In my understanding, genetics explain certain affinities or tendencies—tactile/cerebral, dexterous/clumsy, thoughtful/reactive, anxious/calm, etc— while a person's environment and access to opportunities allow those affinities to manifest into certain skills, then later, some profession.
This sounds reasonable, but it's been a long time since biology class!
Nope. Only certain people can be designers, just like certain people can be musicians, dancers, writers, [insert a talent].
Like parents who tell their kids they can be anything, and there are no losers, saying anyone can be a designer is not only misleading but irresponsible.
I hope you understand that design isn't limited to visual communication, but if not, you've still got a long way to go before becoming a designer yourself ;)
Everyone has the capacity; some just find it easier than others. Its a superficial view to believe your born with talent and either have it or not.
I've been a design professional for almost 20 years, I've been around the block many times and seen a lot. I've taught at FIT in Manhattan and Rutgers University. It's naive to think you can acquire talent. You can fine-tune and perfect nature-born talents, but you can't create them.
Everyone has the capacity to get better but very few have the capacity to be great, otherwise everyone would be great at what they do, but they're not.
You can absolutely acquire talent, given the right circumstances. How do you think talented people became talented at what they do in the first place? How good vs. great someone is at something is explicitly dependent on the specific person, and their place in the world and time because we cannot be removed from it. Context matters.
Saying that people are "born with talent" is patently dismissive of they effort they put in to get there, and the effort put forth by the people who helped them along the way (directly or not).
However, the "right circumstances" are fundamentally important and not directly accessible to everyone, and it is naive to think otherwise. We are all products of our environment, experience and interactions with those around us. The nature vs. nurture debate is irrelevant because it is both. Nature and nurture. They are not separable from one another, and you are not separable from them.
All brains are not capable of the same greatness. That might not seem fair, but that's how it works.
It works that way with intelligence, creativity, and it works that way with athletics as well.
This is a debate of nature vs. nurture. People have invested their lives into answering this question and yet its still uncertain, as such, I don't think we'll work it out on this message thread.
Personally I believe if we tell people they're either 'born with it' or not, it will deter people who might truly have talent because it creates the false expectation that they need to be great out of the gate.
What you personally believe is a moot point. Your hurt feelings have nothing to do with the fact that we're all born with different abilities. It shouldn't make you feel bad that some people are great and some people suck.
There's no debate that some people are born with natural born abilities - both physical and mental. We've all known people personally who from an early age we could tell were naturally better at things. Michael Phelps was born with a swimmer's body, you can't train someone to achieve that body. Stefan Sagmiester was born with a brain that thinks differently about graphic design. You can't teach someone to be an innovative designer like him.
I've taught at the university level, and I'd never tell (and never have told) any of my students to quit because they 'weren't born with it'. People find out soon enough on their own. I assigned honest grades on projects based on what was created and I show them how they can improve, but students improve at different levels based on their potential. We also exist along a spectrum. It's not a binary 'having it' or 'not having it'.
I lived and worked in New York City for 12 years. You learn very quickly in that city (and many other cities) whether you have what it takes to make it. Hard work is a big part of it, but so is talent. Hard work doesn't make you more creative. You can't squeeze water out of a stone.
A great book on this topic is 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. He breaks down success to talent, timing, and practice.
I agree with a lot of your points and will definitely will give this book a read! I had the impression you were distilling it simply to a binary position of 'having it' or not, but this cleared it up nicely. I'm keen to read more into the subject!
As I pointed in another comment above, I believe that people are not all the same at birth and some are more likely to be great at a particular field than others. However, with the exception of any impairment, anyone can be anything he likes, even if he won't likely be the greatest at most options.
If you want to play basketball, it helps a lot to be taller than the average, just as Michael Phelps was born with a body that helped a lot in becoming one of the best in his practice.
Everyone can be a designer, but very few will be great designers. Based on ability only, anyone can be anything, from a doctor to an astronaut. It's how hard you work, your life experience and your choices that will make you better at any particular field.
It's something like 25% nature, 75% nurture, in my opinion.
On a practical level, I agree. Your circumstances and the people around influence your perception and actions at every level. So if your feedback loop of those influences is negative, it is extremely hard overcome them.
On the other side of the same coin, we are not static by any means. We all have the capacity to change (for better or worse). I definitely agree that success equates to talent, timing and practice, but I'd go further to say that those three aspects are also fluid and driven by each other.
I don't accept that people are born with specific talents though. Disposition (nurture) and advantageous characteristics (nature), sure—but to realize a specific talent is to put in the work and take advantage of opportunities for growth when they present themselves. Having good teachers and mentors is also extremely important.
I think the overall problem here is that the author of the piece appears to be entirely dismissive of the nature component, as do many other essays I’ve read of this ilk. It’s a weird little trend I’m getting very suspect & weary of.
I didn't dismiss nature, even if I don't make it as clear as it could be. It would take a big part if I was focusing on the greatest designers in the field, but I'm not. Everyone can be a designer if they chose that path, but 1) very few really try as hard as they can to be a designer (or anything, in reality) and 2) there's a genetic factor that'll ultimately limit how much most people will be able to achieve in design.
I appreciate the clarification and the discussion. I still am not sure why we can’t just replace “design” with any profession at all, and what overall point is being made that’s specific to only design versus say, lawyers or radiologists.
The difference really is about the authority that a lawyer or radiologist has before their "clients" and designers don't. Generally speaking, designer's clients usually feel that their opinions about design are worth the same, even if there's no real argument supporting them.
However, this is a common issue in most of the social sciences. It doesn't happen so often in other fields.
Thanks for clarifying.
It absolutely is nature and nurture, but nuture can't make up for what you're lacking in natural potential.
So no, you cannot acquire talent. We're not created equal.
What does it mean to be a designer? Based on your other answers it seems you talk about outliers. The best of our industry. To become one of these you need natural talent.
Talent makes things easier and determines your maximum potential, but you don’t need it to become an average designer. You can be hard-working without talent with right attitude and you will succeed in our industry. You will be able to produce work people will like and you will get paid for it, and it same for any professions.
Most people are not hard-working, and they don’t have the righ attitude. It is the main reason they fail and very often they also miss teachers and mentors.
What I meant is that most people, independently of ever trying to be a designer, think they can make great design choices. People who never studied design, don't have any experience, references or culture in that field. They see it as a very trivial field.
Designers, on the other hand, can, most of the times, support their choices with valid arguments. I was not making a separation between average designers, good designers and the greatest, as they would probably be enough material for another post in itself.
Of course anyone (meaning most people) can be a designer, musician, dancer - not everyone can be the BEST though.
Don't you think most people can design a decent website if they develop design skills over a period of time? We're not talking ground breaking awwward winning design.
They can, but most are not willing to. However, even without trying to be designers, people believe they are entitled to take valid design choices over the ones that real designers take and can support with arguments.
What makes the average designers from good designers and the good designers from the great designers is another topic in itself.
Agree 100%. It's like everyone who knows how to draw can become an artist. Of course, it takes a lot of experience and hard work, but also a natural talent is needed to become at least an above the average designer and have a pretty decent career.
I think this misconception may be linked to the idea that even if you only know and do research type of work you can still call yourself a designer, and that is totally misleading people outside of the industry.
I can understand what the article is trying to say. Because designing "seems" to be the thing we are doing everyday (regardless whether we are a designer or not), it makes designing seems so easy that people often mistreat designers as a merely technical worker (who can operate Photoshop). Unlike doctors or architect.