10 Ways to Lead a More Fulfilling Creative Career

We have gathered wisdom from some of the most iconic creatives on how to walk out each day and do what you love. Whether it’s Debbie Millman’s advice to invest in yourself or Amos Kennedy Jr.’s advocacy for setting your own values, these lessons act as a guide toward living a wonderfully fulfilling creative life.

Play the 88-year long game.

We love immediate gratification and recognition. We want to be a prodigy and make the 30 Under 30 list. But being a shooting star isn’t the key to a lifelong career. Take abstract artist Carmen Herrera. She painted for more than 60 years before her work was widely recognized and, at age 101, her work was finally shown in a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The takeaway? Nothing says your creative career is over if you’re not recognized early on. Remember to play the long game. Even if it takes close to a century. As Herrera herself put it, “Patience, darling, patience.”

Carmen Herrera in her New York studio. Image courtesy of Herrera.

Pursue personal projects.

Louise Fili has made a career crafting understated and elegant graphics, first for Pantheon Books and then for her own studio, Louise Fili Ltd. But her advice for a fulfilling career lives outside of the workday 9-5. “I feel very strongly that every designer has to have his or her own personal projects,” says Fili. “Because it’s the only way that you really grow and find your design voice.” The designer started with an Italian art deco inspired book, based on years of collecting material for fun. That little book grew into a design series that led Fili all over the world. “You have to combine graphic design with something you’re passionate about,” she says. “I wouldn’t be the designer I am today if I hadn’t done my own projects.”

Fili in her New York City Studio. Photo by Franck Bohbot.

Make confidence a part of your practice.

Animator Floyd Norman has been in the business a long time—since the days when an animator’s top pitch priority was to make Walt Disney himself smile. But his advice to young creatives has never gotten old. The secret to a good pitch? Fearlessness. “If you’re hesitant about your work,” Norman says, “this will show in your pitch. If you feel like you’ve delivered the goods, then you can pitch with confidence.”

Floyd Norman started working at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1956.

Think in systems, not pixels.

A brand isn’t only a logo you hand off to a client, according to MetaDesign founder Erik Spiekermann. A designer must take command of the big picture: strategy, implementation, a plan to put the pedal to the metal. “You can design anything, but if the rubber doesn’t hit the road,” says Spiekermann, “the client won’t call you again.” So, show up not just with color and a typeface, but a vision for how it fits…

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