Sagmeister & Walsh studio

Jessica Walsh gave these tips to young designers.

“Talent is overrated: No one pops out of the womb as an awesome designer! Mastering your craft takes a ton of time, and in order to be successful you have to work your ass off and put in the hours. Pursuing something you love helps because you’ll be more likely to put in the time needed to hone your skills and become great. Don’t worry so much at first about making a huge paycheck. One of the most valuable things you can do when you are young is learning from people who are creating the work you want to be making one day. Tailor your portfolio based on the work you want to be making. The work that is in your portfolio is the work you will get hired for. So if you hate web design, remove it from your portfolio. If you love typography, spend extra hours on nights and weekends honing that craft so you have more in your portfolio to show for it. Don’t try to be good at everything. No one is great at everything. Instead, collaborate with people who inspire you, who are smarter than you, who will challenge you to learn and grow and see things from a new perspective. Stay interested. Besides hard work and persistence, the other keys to being a great designer are experiences and empathy; they help you understand how to communicate with many different people. So diversify your experiences. Challenge yourself to learn new things and meet new people. Stay open-minded and flexible. Don’t be an asshole or an egomaniac. When I am hiring, besides talent and work ethic, I look to hire nice people. Life is too short to work with people who make everything difficult or try to make everything about themselves.”

Read more.

And that’s some very impressive coding by Gisle Nes for the studio’s new “live feed” homepage.


May 25, 2016


It reminds me of a video I saw a while ago that I wanted to show to my photography students. It was a self-reflection video another photographer released about getting better and breaking through creative barriers.

The part I liked the best was when he lists a bunch of master photographers like Ansel Adams saying each one at some point sucked in photography but look at their work now.

I think talent is the innate ability to acomplish something without doing any work. Each of us has differnt measure of talent in the end its the hard work that matters, the extra time you invest to better your design skills.

Awesome advice, and even though I have been in the industry for a while I find it relevant.
Staying humble is the key to learning, together with empathy for clients, stakeholders and coworkers.
Thanks so much. 👍

Timeless truth, great post!

“One of the most valuable things you can do when you are young is learning from people who are creating the work you want to be making one day.”

Hard work does beat talent when talent refuses to work hard BUT a hardworking talented person is difficult to beat on hard work alone.

I don’t know. I work in a creative agency as a content developer. Whether it is video, long form writing, proposals, social media, white pages, web copy, I can create a story from just about anything. However, my entire life, my creativity has been regulated to just that — storytelling through words and (now) video. I cannot even draw a stick figure. Yes, I understand HOW to use the CS but I was not developed (nature or nurture) to be able to create visually. I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, but I am not artistically talented. The graphic designers I work with keep telling me that it’s not so much talent as practice, but I just don’t believe them. Yes, you have to have passion to learn and get the drive to be amazing, but I SWEAR, you also have to have at least some natural talent or affinity for artistic fields.

Totally agree David, there is so much truth in the old saying: ‘Practice makes perfect’ and even Stefan Sagmeister, Paul Rand, Jessica Walsh, Sir Norman Foster, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, etc. had to start somewhere.

It is a combination of working hard, having a vision, and having the skin to take criticism, but most importantly not letting the haters dictate what you can or cannot do.

I have been around the traps for 16 years so I think I am qualified to weigh in on this, and if you want to speed the process up, do a design course, buy books and magazines on the subject, immerse yourself in it, become design.

Go for it Kim, you CAN do it.

Although through college and university there were people with more talent than me I’ve found in the years since leaving university that a lot of those guys just didn’t pursue their careers with as much enthusiasm as I did.

I wholeheartedly believe that success is just a matter of time invested in the right areas. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers has some good stories on this and also Robert Greene’s book titled Mastery always inspired me.

Through various studies researchers have found a recurring number of 10,000 hours is needed to make you a master in any given subject. Although we don’t all have the luxury of investing that amount of time, I think that if you’re smart with the time you do invest you can still achieve greatness.

Good luck guys,


Share a thought