How to Make It: 15 Rules for Success In the Creative Industry

July 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Jessica Hische

Designer, Letterer

Rule: Be yourself.

"'Be yourself' sounds like really generic advice, especially since your parents have been telling you to do so your entire life, but it is absolutely the most important factor for success. Choose a career based on what YOU love and want to do, not what other people believe you should do. Don't put on a persona when networking or promoting yourself; people can sense when you're being disingenuous. Know your strengths and play to them. Know your weaknesses and strive to improve them (or just learn to delegate well!)."

Benny Gold

Graphic Designer, Owner of Benny Gold

Rule: Keep it honest no matter what you do, and success will come naturally.

"Create art because you love it, not to make money, get famous, or get laid. All of that is awesome also, but if your work is not sincere and doesn't come from the heart, then people will see through it. You can get a little fame by copying someone's style, but that doesn't last. It's better to come wack than unoriginal. People respect honesty — I know I do. I would still be designing and creating art even if I didn't have a brand that I can support a family on."

Fatima Al Qadiri

Artist, Musician

Rule: Don't be misled by the ideal of commercial success.

"Art is not confined to boundaries set by museums, galleries, and art fairs. The facade of money, and therefore what is deemed "successful," is powerful in every industry, no less in the art world.

It goes without saying that knowing the right people, or going to the right school, can drastically alter your status and opportunities.

To me, success is measured by the questions posed in a given work. Whether or not it has any commercial value is immaterial. Does your work breed more questions than answers? You'll find out soon enough. Be inspired, pay homage, never imitate."

Maxime Buchi

Publisher/Creative Director of Sang Bleu Magazine, Tattooist

Rule: Make the most of the potential you have.

"Know yourself. The most successful are never the most gifted, but those who know best how to exploit their gifts."

Frank Chimero


Rule: Get dirty.

"Sure, use your hands, get off the computer, etc., but I love anthropologist Mary Douglas' idea of dirt being 'matter out of place.' I think ideas can be like this, too. Design is a vessel that holds other things, so explore other fields, and import their insights into your practice. Read a book on astronomy, look at conceptual art, appreciate the vernacular. Insight comes from the outside."

Kathy Grayson

Founder of the Hole Gallery, Painter

Rule: Make art about life, not art about art.

"Art that is charged with lived experience is the kind of art that changes lives."


Colleen Nika

Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, DJ

Rule: Honestly connect to your craft(s).

"I believe that connecting honestly to my craft(s), and how my intuition tells me to use it, has served me better than any formal training or technique. Networking and interning in an industry where your role is unclear will only get you so far. You need to think long-term — how can you create opportunities now that will evolve with you, and serve you well 10 years from now? This isn't a privileged viewpoint, it's survivalism for grownups."


Tyler Gibney

Founder of HVW8 Art + Design Gallery

Rule: There is no singular rule for success.

"Yes, hard work, developing an audience/patrons, finding your artists, studying, networking, gallery location, commitment, seeing as much art as possible, making your own art, finding and developing new talent, not being afraid, proper curation, enjoying yourself, attention to details — these are all important, but there is no formula for success in art. It can be absurd, and you can learn from others, but it's your own trials and tribulations, mistakes, and experiences that will lead you to your path and define what success means to you."

Bobby Solomon

Editor-in-chief of The Fox Is Black, Senior Designer at Disney

Rule: Be consistent and determined.

"I've been running The Fox Is Black for five years now, and it's lead me down many interesting paths. I started the blog, because I wanted to share the things I loved, ideas, and thoughts that inspired me. I've done this nearly every day for five years, and it's allowed me to meet so many interesting people along the way. It even helped me get me my last two jobs. Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you'll start meeting some amazing people."


Jill Greenberg


Rule: See everything through your own particular lens.

"This should not be hard for anyone who is an artist. Create from that perspective, non-stop. Always be making something. It's the best feeling as an artist to be prolific. It's not always going to work out and be successful, but you have to be working and creating (in my case — images) all the time. Always be looking and making."

Allan Yu

Designer at Svpply

Rule: Go small and stay home.

"Fuck the mantra 'Go Big or Go home.' You ever realize that the people who say that are the ones that don't go big at all? Take the big picture and break it into small pieces, stay home, and work on bits of it everyday. Fail at what you're making, too. Fail a lot, and it's okay, remember, you don't have to go home if you're already home!

You don't set out to build a wall. You don't say 'I'm going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that's ever been built.' You don't start there. You say, 'I'm going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.' You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall. —Will Smith

And don't forget, every wall is part of a building, which is part of a street, that is part of a city, and so on and so forth. Unless your wall is a piece of art, then it can stand alone. "

Willa Koerner

Digital Engagement Associate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Rule: Be the nicest, friendliest, most genuine person you can be.

"Have a sense of humor. Don’t feel entitled to a certain type of relationship with your colleagues — rather, work at making friends and gaining the trust and respect of those you work with. In the long run, the relationships you build will be the cornerstone of your success!"





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