“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use, do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon

T-shaped people make great planners

This is an old post from 2005 by David Armano but it adds more info to an earlier post I wrote last year about ‘Looking for Innovation superstars‘. Sorry I know, 2 old posts don’t necessarily make a new one but I wanted to add this in anyway. Sometimes it takes a year for my brain to join the dots!

Anyway, an interesting thought so have a look:


ARE YOU T-SHAPED? by David Armano
If you work in the marketing or design industry you’ve probably observed that there is a movement afoot. If you specialize in the interactive space, you might be at ground zero. There’s a new generation of work out there that’s being driven by customer insights and executed with strategic creativity. It wasn’t always this way. In the early days of the Internet, there was almost no such thing as “good design” when it came to sites or online marketing. Over time, graphic designers exerted their influence over the new media and although design got better visually–usability often suffered in return. Then came Flash and the whole ball of wax changed forever. Thankfully, those days are long gone.

The current reality is that the interactive medium has reached a major milestone in development. That is—the successful art of combining rational and emotional benefits to result in compelling experiences which people find useful, usable and desirable. So who owns the future of interactive design and related fields? T-shaped people.

Tim Brown of IDEO

Tim Brown, founder of IDEO describes the notion this way: people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T—they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers.

But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need.

So what does this mean to traditional teams of specialists such as Art Directors & Copywriters, or even the relatively new discipline of Information Architects? What about Creative Directors such as myself? It means that the days of being a specialist are over. Not to be confused with a “jack of all trades” T-shaped people have a core competency, but can easily branch out. And they possess curiosity, empathy and aren’t afraid to ask “why”.

So what are the signs of a T-shaped person? Look for experimentation in their background. Have they worked in different areas of expertise? Have they experienced different mediums? Are they willing to place themselves in the shoes of others and throw pre-conceived notions out the window? Do they step out of comfort zones on a regular basis? Do they occasionally make you nervous? If so, you might have one on your team.


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