Reprising W+K’s 10 lessons for young designers

I recently ran across this list while reading about the challenges faced by John Maeda as he moved from software engineer and computer scientist to President of the Rhode Island School of Design. It reminded me that not all of design, in education and in work, can be neatly packaged and served to managers in a sound bite like ‘design thinking.’ I’m reprising here the list written by Wieden+Kennedy’s Executive Creative Director, John C. Jay of 10 lessons for young designers:


1: Be authentic. The most powerful asset you have is your individuality, what makes you unique. It’s time to stop listening to others on what you should do.

2: Work harder than anyone else and you will always benefit from the effort.

3: Get off the computer and connect with real people and culture. Life is visceral.

4: Constantly improve your craft. Make things with your hands. Innovation in thinking is not enough.

5: Travel as much as you can. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to learn just how much you don’t know.

6: Being original is still king, especially in this tech-driven, group-grope world.

7: Try not to work for stupid people or you’ll soon become one of them.

8: Instinct and intuition are all-powerful. Learn to trust them.

9: The Golden Rule actually works. Do good.

10: If all else fails, No. 2 is the greatest competitive advantage of any career.

Tell me that any manager, young or old, shouldn’t pin these to their wall, maybe even their screen.

1 thought on “Reprising W+K’s 10 lessons for young designers

  1. I might pin this on my wall with the exception that I really dislike number 2. Whenever I see injunctions to work harder I always want to replace them with a call to work smarter. Too many people thing working hard means putting in more hours which is inherently bad for both work productivity and work life balance

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