How to be the Best Designer in the World?

Have you ever wondered how you could be the best designer in the world? How to be that money making Design Virtuoso? I know I have. What about you?

I sort of knew what it took, but I never really knew what it took, until today. According to Chris Guillebeau, the man behind The Art of Nonconformity, if you want to a virtuoso, or just be really good with anything (music, sport, design etc.), you will need to invest approximately 14,600 hours of practice or training to get there.

The time cost of becoming a virtuoso—which I’m defining here simply as a measure of extremely high expertise—is about 10 years of consistent training for at least several hours a day. This is the consensus view from a wide scientific literature on virtuosos from various disciplines.

Roughly, this breaks down to 14,600 hours over the course of a decade (4 hours a day, no weekends or holidays). According to experts who study the experts, If you spend approximately 14,600 hours practicing the cello, learning to be a surgeon, playing chess, or doing any activity that has a progressive learning scale and can be evaluated by other experts, you’ll achieve the status of being a virtuoso.

Yes, there are some disclaimers, and the most important one is that you have to have somewhat of a talent at playing chess or cello to begin with. But most virtuosos are not innate geniuses; they are instead highly disciplined individuals.

Extracted from: The 14,600 Hours to Virtuosity by Chris Guillebeau.

Wow. Now you know why some designers seem to be able to sketch, CAD or even design better than others. They have invested the time and effort to perfect their art.

Why some designers are so good?

I am willing to bet that those car designers who are able to sketch or draw so well, have put in serious time into their profession. Furthermore, I will not be surprised if many of them have been already sketching cars before they even got into design school!

Therefore, if you want to be really good at something, you have to first set a goal and then put in the hours to get there.

When I started out my design career, I was an old school designer living in a transition period between 2D and 3D. I had no 3D skills and no job because all the design firms were only hiring CAD jockeys at that time. Therefore I was determined to learn 3D and be the best CAD jockey there was. I made a decision to be very good at Rhino3D, in an environment dominated by Alias and Pro-Engineer.

So I put in the hours, invested weekends, read the Rhino Manual from cover to cover (I kid you not!), and did all the tutorials. Not only that, I searched out every hint and tip there was on the web, and even participated in the Rhino software Beta feedback team. In no time I was churning out Rhino CAD files dead quick and to a quality that was even manufacturing ready!

Passion and Dedication.

Chris talks about Talent being but one of the elements in the equation. I agree, even with design, Talent is nothing without discipline. However I like to add, particularly with design, Passion and Dedication are another two elements of this equation. I find that the two are linked, if you have a Passion for something, Dedication is not far behind.

There is a clear difference with a designer that lives and breathes design vs. a designer that is “oh-hum” about design. Having Passion is not just about loving design, it is also about the dedication to get knee deep in it, and the will to be designing almost all the time. I can relate to designers like Marc Newson who always seem to be critical of their surroundings and never seem to stop wanting to improve it. I can see also passionate Designers taking part in design competitions, creating their own products, or even solving problems outside of design.

It is Passion that is the fuel that keeps the fires burning and the designers going in the wee hours of the morning.

Being a “Jack of all Trades” is Only the Starting Point.

I like to close this discussion up by addressing a big complain I always here from Industrial Designers. That is we end up being “Jack of all Trades, and Masters of None”. Yes and No. The nature of the industrial design profession requires us to cover a lot of ground at school. However learning does not and should not stop when you graduate. When you do graduate, it is now up to you to focus on areas you are either interested in or perhaps areas you want to improve. For example if you start clocking just a few hours a day in sketching, you will soon have 10 hours a week, 40 hours a month and 480 hours a year etc. You see, you don’t have to put in that 14,600 hours to be a Virtuoso (unless you want to!), but anybody can start being better in something when the time is invested in doing so. Best of Luck!

———-

Brian is a multidisciplinary industrial design leader that goes under the pseudonym of “The Design Translator”. He muses about the art of design leadership and the business of strategic industrial design over at his website Design Sojourn. He often laments the lack of good soy mochas and Italian pizzas (with Rocket and shredded Parma ham) in Asia.

29 Comments

  • When I was a teenager, lo those many years ago, I read a quote from Malcolm X that stuck with me. Paraphrasing it: you have to study a subject a bit each day to master it. Part of that study is doing, and part is reading. He emphasized the reading. Just another way to formulate the idea of the practice mentioned in the post.

    I think that you have hit upon a key element towards success in your post: the dedication which comes through passion. Personally, I think that there are ways to teach dedication, but passion is the real kicker. If you wish to master then go beyond, passion can only come from within. (I write this now as a father who is trying to find the means to create a passion in his own children).

  • Design is about ideas and problem solving. Sketching a couple of our a day will not help you with that.
    On the other hand, getting design into reality takes craft of 2D sketching and 3D modeling. That is where all those hours will help you.

    That being said, does anyone know a designer that is shitty at sketching?

    Disclaimer: I’m not a designer.

  • When I was a teenager, lo those many years ago, I read a quote from Malcolm X that stuck with me. Paraphrasing it: you have to study a subject a bit each day to master it. Part of that study is doing, and part is reading. He emphasized the reading. Just another way to formulate the idea of the practice mentioned in the post.

    I think that you have hit upon a key element towards success in your post: the dedication which comes through passion. Personally, I think that there are ways to teach dedication, but passion is the real kicker. If you wish to master then go beyond, passion can only come from within. (I write this now as a father who is trying to find the means to create a passion in his own children).

  • I really liked this post, and I think I loved this comment by Frank: “When I was a teenager, lo those many years ago, I read a quote from Malcolm X that stuck with me. Paraphrasing it: you have to study a subject a bit each day to master it. Part of that study is doing, and part is reading. He emphasized the reading. Just another way to formulate the idea of the practice mentioned in the post.”

    Good stuff!

  • ENG says:

    thnx that’s very helpfull :)

  • Thanks for the props! Good luck on becoming the best designer in the world – not that you need luck.

    cg

  • I really liked this post, and I think I loved this comment by Frank: “When I was a teenager, lo those many years ago, I read a quote from Malcolm X that stuck with me. Paraphrasing it: you have to study a subject a bit each day to master it. Part of that study is doing, and part is reading. He emphasized the reading. Just another way to formulate the idea of the practice mentioned in the post.”

    Good stuff!

  • weshwesh says:

    wooaa thanx for the tips…

  • ranjix says:

    hmm… In other places I saw the 10,000 hours barrier to become the “expert”. Regardless, what I find missing in this piece is the desire to understand, if you want, the physics of objects and interaction, understand actually the problem. Design is not about sketching and rhino3d, just like sculpture is not about hitting a chisel, or programming about drawing UI in VB or whatnot. Someone else said before, design is about solving problems – in elegant ways I would add. Think of it as an art of convergence between various (and sometimes very divergent, from technical to artistic) disciplines, and then you’ll see that great design comes from the best “integrators”.
    just my opinon…

  • J Dizzle says:

    Design is the idea. The art of design is the communication of that idea. You can’t really write down the shape you have in your head in paragraph form and expect someone else to read your writing and understand you every time. If you can’t sketch, you’re going to have a hard time modeling. If you can’t model it (these days) you’re not going to be able to show your idea to anyone. Without that, what do you have? An idea in your head.

    Teriffic article. Everyone should read what this guy has to say about making goals and following your dreams.

  • Hi,

    Really Nice tips for designers,

    Thanks a lot for share a nice stuff.

  • Brian Ling says:

    @ J Dizzle Thanks for the comment.

    @All, I believe some of you miss the point. This is not an article about what is Design supposed to be. This is about how to become good in design, or good in design skills. The same goes, if you seek a “desire to understand”, or to you “design is about problem solving”, and these skills are what you feel is important in your career in Design, you will equally need to put time into getting better at “problem solving” etc., and you do this by solving as many design exercises you can manage.

    Regards
    Brian

    • ranjix says:

      thanks Brian.
      Personally I do see a big gap between “good in design” and “good in design skills”, just like I see a big gap between the title of the article “how to be the best designer” and the rest of the article, which touches the problem of sketching. To simplify, I would judge a good designer based on the final result, not on how good the sketch looked. Also, I think the sketching “talent” is trainable and measurable, while the “problem solving” less so (requires multidisciplinary knowledge). But, nothing is impossible – I liked a a quote from Michelangelo I found on Internet – “If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all”.

  • Hi,

    Really Nice tips for designers,

    Thanks a lot for share a nice stuff.

  • weshwesh says:

    isn’t it obvious that you need to spend time on practicing to become a master? if I ask to a master of KungFu some tips to improve my skills and the guy reply, “I got a good one: practice more…” I would feel a bit disappointed, not you?

  • Roy97 says:

    The public understands large-scale double-blind medical studies well enough to discuss the risks of experimental treatment, the ethics of withholding prom- ising treatment from the control group, and the conflicts of interest that are addressed by the blinding process. ,

  • Arnold62 says:

    Even if this was a considerable exaggeration, it seemed, on reflection, ungenerous to tear up the legal release form and throw them out. ,

  • New research shows that this supplement is sufficient
    against DHT, helping to break it down into other things that are not ravaging
    to your hair. The Hair Regrowth Treatment makes easy or simple for everyone to get hair
    again. Now keep on braiding by using your free index finger
    and thumb of your one hand to grab the back section of your hair.

  • People have died on the operating room table even with the
    best of care. may be recommended to restore a
    youthful appearance to the face. Lack of hospital privileges really should sound alarm bells within your thoughts.

  • In the past A-list celebrities like Courtney Cox, Jennifer Anniston, Eva Longoria,
    Andi Mc – Dowell, Liz Hurley and even Katherine Hepburn have all had their images
    and persona associated with an international skin care brand –
    with big bucks in advertising it. The more refined they are, the more money you need to shell out.
    ‘Oh, she looks amazing in that dress, but I would never be able to pull it off
    because of my ____________ ________ ‘ (insert excuse here).

  • These clothes are made to improve your shape
    because they suck you in, smoothing your
    shape. Vintage jewelry was the charm and retro designs mixed with modern looks were another hit style in jewelry.
    The reason for ice, compression and elevation would be to
    limit blood flow towards the affected spot.

  • They can get proper rhinoplasties are really affordable rates and hence the demand is always high.

    Laser procedures are also used to diminish the emergence of age spots and wrinkles and also to resurface your skin. By using a radio frequency face
    lift, many men and women can prolong the need for a full-fledged face lift later on in life.

  • Furthermore, feeding live food is difficult as all live meals have a much
    higher risk in bringing bad bacteria or microorganisms
    that maybe harmful to your fish. If you like antiques you have to
    ask for help- we have many but only the locals know where
    they hide. Be sure to vacuum floors, rugs and upholstery your pet comes in contact with regularly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>