david carson and why creative degrees don’t always matter

The brilliant, warm, and deadpan David Carson gave one of the most humorous, geniune, and arguably insightful TED talks about Design and Discovery. In it, he gives insight into the mind of a true designer, a world which most creatives do not look life, objects, themes, and constructs the same way an average person does.

There’s a layer below that piece of paper, a diploma, to how every creative thinks, one in which having a degree in design doesn’t necessary make one a great designer any more than getting an MBA makes you an world-class business person. Quite the opposite, sometimes getting degrees can mire a person by teaching them constrictions instead of endless possibilities. “World of endless possibilities” could sum up the approach David Carson takes towards design, and life in general.

David’s original education is that of sociology, how social actions, structure, and functions relate to the theoretical understanding of social processes. Understanding sociology may well be a better key to understanding marketing and design rather than a straight up education of either discipline. Design is far more than making pretty pictures, visuals, and how things look. Marketing is more than a mere process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. There’s much more beneath the surface to understanding either or both. David entered design as an observer, he looked around and design and then put his own unique take on it. Had David perhaps formal training he wouldn’t be renowned in many design circles, leaving an indelible mark on the creative visual aesthetic. Shudder to think, but had he a four year design school education, his work would most likely wind up looking like everyone elses.

When one looks for talent for an organization, brand, what-have-you, whether that’s to assist in a message, visibility, to get the word out, to hire, retain, or whatever the relationship, there’s so much more than a person’s education or background. There’s the person’s perspective on the world and how they see it, and the value they add as a person, not a bloodless list on some job qualification requirements or bullets on a resume. David Carson’s talk should remind all of us in some position of hiring authority we must look past the formal education, learn what makes a person tick, their passion, their enthusiasm. Never discount intuition about someone, or your own. These are things that go much further than one’s education or background and can make the next great thought leader and one to watch in your industry.