Graphic Designer Scott Stowell: Why You Should Take On Projects You Don't Know How To Do

Stowell says the "randomness" of taking on all opportunities is crucial in design, even if it means figuring it out as you go.

Co.Design has partnered with the Brooklyn design studio Hyperakt to bring you Lunch Talks, a video series of conversations with smart, creative people. Here's the first installment.—Eds

Scott Stowell is creative director of Open, a New York independent design studio responsible for The Nation's 9/11 cover as well as other print, web, and graphics projects. Above, Stowell reveals his approach to taking on projects and how he has cultivated a studio that relies on risk. "We like to do projects that we don't know how to do," he says. It's part of his life motto: "No one has any idea what they're doing. We're all just figuring it out."

Add New Comment


  • Leaving your comfort zone, will make you a better designer (and person). Staying within will stunt your growth, professionally and personally. Enjoyed the vid cast.

  • teodoratodorova555

    Great advice. Say yes and then figure out how to do it. That's one of the best ways to learn - get out of your comfort zone and just explore and try.

  • Paul Wallace

    Huge what you DO NOT KNOW.....that way you learn. prepared to walk away with no $ if you do not complete the project.

    Success is for the prepared...or the bold. You choose. :)

  • Jessica de la Cruz

    I really needed this little pep talk today, thank you. At every turn I feel like the more I know, the more I DONT know. But yes. We ARE all just trying to figure things out.

  • christa.marzan

    Thus is great and something I try to live by every day as a designer!

  • This is really more relevant to design than to other fields. How is someone who has no experience in say, private equity or marketing analytics going to 1) first get those jobs 2) do those jobs very well? The first hurdle is definitely huge, if not, almost insurmountable. I just don't see a lot of people in this world, particularly HR managers and recruiters, willing to take a chance on others who are passionate the work their companies are hiring for but have little direct experience. We definitely need a mindset change for us to be able to dabble in work that we don't quite know how to do but have the grit to take the problem by its horn and ultimately solve it.

  • Annie Eitman

    Wonderful. Love how he embraces the opportunity in a new challenge. We are a sum of our own experiences!

  • Go somewhere you've never been; learn something you never knew. It's a way, I believe, that makes me better at what I do, by educating, motivating, persuading an audience I've never encountered before with a new vocabulary. Perhaps in a medium/platform I've never used before. Eureka!