• This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn more.

The Value and Validity of 'Talent'


Senior Member
Hello all,

Just put up a new article on my blog today on the subject of talent. I certainly didn't plan to write it until Tuesday after I had a discussion in teh comments section of one of my other blog posts. In the previous post I asked people to tell me how they became a designer a guy called Doug made a few comments relating to talent, and we had a debate between ourselves over a few days, to the point where I decided I really needed to spend some time writing my thoughts on the subject.

You can see the initial discussion we had in the comments section of this post: kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk – How did you become a designer? – Random Question #2
If you have time please feel free to add some comments and put that thread back on topic!

And this is a link to my article as a response: kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk – The Value and Validity of Talent

I imagine my thoughts on this subject will probably be against most peoples general thoughts and feelings but it's a complex subject when you really get into thinking about it.

Hopefully it'll turn into a good debate, so I asked Greg if I could start it here as well.

If you have time I hope you'll read my article, start a debate here, and comment on the blog post.

What I was driving at in my article is that I don't accept that 'natural talent' exists. I believe that some people are born with natural (biological) advantages, a well as social and environmental ones. But it's up to the way each of us lives out lives and how we apply ourselves to our goals that creates 'talent.'
I don't thing 'talent' is a natural occurrence, I believe it's something that is developed.

Hope you find this all as interesting as I have.


Active Member
Interesting read Ken, I definitely agree with you on this point;

I’m not a subscriber to the thought that some people are simply born to do a certain job. I think people grow up with physical (biological) or social advantages that predispose them to fulfill particular jobs, but I think it’s too simple to label a complex arrangement of cumulative circumstances as ‘natural talent.’
I think the influences around you as you're growing up have a huge impact on the path your life takes career wise, even if you're not aware of it. On a slightly different note, if you ever get the chance to read a book called Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss I thoroughly recommend it, I won't talk about it now, otherwise I'll be de-railing this thread before it's got started!

Even if you try to define talent as your natural 'makeup', it still goes back to positive reassurance growing up. So your physical and mental attributions, ie. some people have a more logical mind, whilst some have a more creative mindset. Both are able to solve problems, but one will always take the scientific approach where 2 always equals 2, whilst the other can think of the solutions that can ignore the set rule that 2 equals 2 for example. So much of the way you think, and the way you're encouraged to think comes from the early days (not to say you can't 're-programme' your mind to work in a different way). The same with physical attributions, whilst your DNA is going to define the outcome to a certain extent, it's possible with training to change the way you look and build your strengths or flexibility or co-ordination, etc, etc.

I'm already beginning to see how easy it is to ramble on about this subject Ken!
So I'm going to stop there and see what other opinions come in :)


Senior Member
great post ken! really interesting discussion. im quite divided on the subject.

on the one hand I agree with you as Ive seen so many people train themselves, take courses, practice relentlessly and gain valuable experience which has got them to a point where you would class them as a good designer.

yet I see examples in life of great designers who are still very young, dont have too much experience and yet churn out stunning work on a regular basis that is consistent in quality and execution.

it brings me to the conclusion that I think both exist, and you may have 2 equally good designers but one is completely taught and trained and has worked to get to that point, where the other has a natural ability that means they seem to have inherited a set of skills that enables them to be a good designer.

I dont know if you are a football fan, but it was interesting to read before the recent Man Utd v Bayern game that the Bayern manager said that Uniteds Goalkeeper (Edwin Van Der Sar) was a 'manufactured' footballer. He said he didnt think he was born with as much talent as some naturally gifted sportsmen but that he had spent so much time training and trying to improve himself that he had turned himself into a great goalkeeper through sheer determination and dedication.

Bayern boss brands Van der Sar as 'manufactured' - European, Football - The Independent

Maybe some parallels can be drawn between that example, and the subject of your blog post?
BombitaSquirt cam


Senior Member
Thanks for your views guys. If you think about it too much your head can start to spin.
I've had some interesting comments on the post that have broadened the debate to include religion. It wasn't something I considered. I wasn't something I considered because of my own beliefs, but it's added another facet to an already complex subject.


Senior Member
Posted over at the blog but heres my input (Doug being the person Ken has discussed this with over at his blog)

I’m sitting on the fence for this discussion. I believe that while maybe people are given talents, or the aptitude to excel at certain things if they try them, people are also in situations where all of these aptitudes can be used for all walks of life. It is our perception of these ‘talents’ and how we use them that allows us to be good at what we do.

For example, while Doug is an illustrator (correct me if I’m wrong) and got there as he feels he has a natural talent for drawing, especially drawings of a cartoonist nature, I could equally be a good illustrator (Albeit different), using my aptitude for mathematics and logic (self proclaimed ‘talents’) to create illustrations. I feel it is all down to how we use the things we have to do the things we love.

I can’t sit in front of a screen and get a flash of inspiration when it comes to web design (something I feel that I have a great wealth of knowledge in now) Some would say I do not have a natural talent for it… However, using logical steps I can work out what is needed (in my opinion) how things should look to evoke different feelings, how things should be organised to deliver the best quality. Hence why I find analysing peoples designs something normal to do, rather than using my emotions it is possible to analyse them through logic. Using my skills, I can create talent in different areas.


Senior Member
The discussion over on my blog has kicked into gear a bit, there is a consensus that people either believe in 'natural-born-talent' or 'developed-talent' and various mixes between the two.

In an effort to keep things rolling I’ll pose a few other points.
How should talent, no matter how it’s attained, effect how people approach education or employment?
I’d especially like to here from teachers or employers and how they judge ‘talent’ and what part it plays in their decision making when it comes to enrollment or hiring.


Senior Member
Your article is very interesting, it's a pleasure to read you because you say that it is just your own opinion, and there are no true or wrong opinions. This is something that I really like. I often don't want to debate because of people who don't want to listen to the others, but here you seem to respect every opinion and I think it is a... great talent or a great work ? ahah

Well, I agree with you. However I also think that talent comes from something that we don't know. We don't know where every man, every woman comes from. I think that people have natural abilities but if they don't use them, these will just stay something unexplored, untapped, like a piano without any musician.
For example : you have art schools. With dancers, musicians, actors, ... They all work really hard every day to be the best, but they don't have the same result. Yet, every dancer works a lot. What's the difference ? Can we call it "talent" ?

The next question could be "is talent a subjective thing ?", yes... or no... maybe... it depends. Indeed, everything depends on something else, nothing is just black or white (except my dress which is very dark :rolleyes: ). Talent can be subjective then : who's better ? What do we expect ?

If "talent" is seen as an ability, or as an ease for something, we can see something natural. Why can I write poems whereas my friend cannot ? Why do I hear the voice of the words and why can I make them dance in a sonnet while he labours to write a correct sentence, even if he reads many books ?
I know a boy who started to learn piano late. After one year, he had the same level as somebody who started to learn piano 6 years earlier.
There is a part of work and also a part of ourselve. We don't know where creation comes from, it is something that you find in/with your spirit and not something on which you worked.

Yes, interesting debate, good idea. =)


Senior Member
I've seen your posts on twitter about this, I wish I wasnt so dam busy and could take the time to read it! Tuesday, I will get on the case!