In the midst of a world characterized by accelerating change, the qualities of creativity, holistic thinking, and innovation — the hallmarks of an art and design education — are increasingly in demand. We asked A&D alums to describe how they got from here (A&D) to there (a career) and the tools and techniques that helped them find their way.

Getting through art school is, itself, an incredibly
entrepreneurial process, from "how do I buy paint and pay rent?" to figuring out what the assignment is, to transporting sculptures. You name it, art school is full of sink or swim experiences. After graduation, I definitely hit the ground running in my jobs, not just because I could think outside the box but because I really knew how to get things done.

My industrial design education at A&D helped me put structure around the problem-solving process. Most complicated problems are design problems in that they are about reconciling incompatible requirements. So, design training is exactly what’s necessary for solving the big problems facing business, government, and ecology. Furthermore, most problems are too complicated to understand unless they can be visualized. The exact intelligence needed to visualize problems is visual intelligence!

I had no career plan when I graduated.  All I had was voracious curiosity. Curiosity and the desire to expose myself to challenges of all sorts — emotional, conceptual, physical, intellectual, sensual — this is the hallmark of the first- rate creative personality. Follow what makes you excited, juicy, scared. Learn everything you can. It has a way of all coming together in new challenges and  new accomplishments.  One of my favorite quotes is ‘in the end, life is always right.’  It will happen.

I actually went from art school to business school, which was unusual at the time. Now, John Maeda, Vice President of RISD, is saying that MFAs are the new MBAs. After graduation I went into cable television marketing, sports marketing, television production and then starting an interactive marketing agency, which I sold two years ago.  We had a creative department of over 70 people, and obviously I used my education guiding the development of the creative.  Lately, I’ve been working as a seed stage investor, advising and investing in companies that specialize in media and technology.

We’re moving from a mechanistic view of the world to a systems view of the world, from reductionism to complexity, from linear to the quantum.  With the recent emphasis on ‘mathandscience’ empirical evidence,  and ‘metrics metrics metrics,’ the visual and the intuitive have suffered  low status.  Did you know the term scientist was coined from science + artist because at that time science had no status?

The humanities ruled. Thankfully the monoculture era is winding down a bit and the value of whole brain thinking, visual thinking, beauty, design are all being re-evaluated.  Intuition isn’t a dirty word anymore!

I believe that a degree in art and design is one of the most practical degrees for the future.  Professions and skills that don’t require intuition, imagination and creative process mastery are in danger of being automated or outsourced to lower labor cost markets.  The valued professions and skills 10 years from now won’t look the same  as 10 years ago.

I also think it’s imperative for artists and visual thinkers to be articulate about these distinctions and these values, to be evangelists about their contributions.  It’s kind of shocking to me, actually, that many creative people I meet, even at high levels in their fields, can be uninformed and inarticulate about these issues. Who can we expect to defend us in this way of thinking and about the importance of these contributions if we don’t defend ourselves? 

Linda Holliday (BFA '79) is a media, internet and marketing entrepreneur. Holliday is the CEO of Semi-Linear, and an Investor at New York Angels whose recent investments include Scrollmotion and Comixology.

This story, along with Joan Sugihara: The Power and Purpose of a Creative Life, are reprinted from the Summer 2010 issue of A&D's publication, Emergence.