Jonathan Kestenbaum is right to goad design students to take a more entrepreneurial stance. By being proactive early in your career you are more likely to succeed and control your own progress.
Role models for this include Paul Priestman, whose consultancy Priestman Goode has extended way beyond its product design roots to take on aircraft and cruise ship interiors and the like. Then there is in-coming D&AD president Simon Waterfall, co-founder of two big creative businesses – the ill-fated Deepend and now Poke – and running global tailoring company Social Suicide on the side.
The Nesta chief executive’s words are unlikely to fall on deaf ears. Regular visitors to graduate shows will have noticed a marked increase in the number of ‘entrepreneurs’ emanating from creative courses. While graduates from craft-based courses have always tended this way, setting up on your own being the best option for most of them, an outgoing attitude is now evident in other areas and more are keen to engage with visitors in discussing their work.
More students are meanwhile taking advantage of schemes such as the Audi Design Foundation’s Designs of Substance programme, which provides an opportunity to work on design in developing countries, and there will be a good array of entrepreneurial graduates showing at events such as New Designers Selection.
But practicing designers would also do well to heed Kestenbaum’s words. As you run down his checklist of what makes an entrepreneur you could equally apply those qualities to design, and it is never too late to expand your skills.
The skills do transfer. Top creatives such as Airside founders Nat Hunter and Fred Deakin have, for example, famously benefited later in their careers from business courses at London’s Centre for Creative Business, a joint venture between London Business School and The University of the Arts.
Entrepreneurialism is just another word for creativity, and like design it has a finite outcome.