The Top 5 Lessons I Learned About Design from my Five-Year Old Nephew

My nephew loves to draw

As soon as a pencil fell into his tiny hands, he began crafting the most intricate masterpieces I have ever seen.  A proud aunt, I have watched from the wings.  Watched him skip the scribbling stages and get right to the good stuff.  Watched lines turn into shapes, shapes turn into scenes, scenes turn into stories.  Head cocked and lips pursed, he works feverishly, passionately.

Forever planted at the kitchen table nurturing his craft, days later he hands them over for collection in his own special binder.  The best moments shared include when he whispers the background stories behind their detailed nature. His dedication unwavering and instincts innate, I sit as a witness to an artist in the making. Here are:

The Top 5 Lessons I Have Learned About
Design from my Five-Year Old Nephew

1. Draw Everyday.

Forever surrounded by mounds of old Go Media letterhead, Benjamin knows the importance of practice.  He oftentimes spends hours at the kitchen table, hands stained by marker and eraser bits scattered about.  But every single moment he gets better, reminding me to work daily on what I love.  “Why do you think you’re so talented at drawing?” I ask Benjamin.  He turns his head, drops his pencil and simply replies, “Oh, that’s because I draw everyday.”

The Ghostbusters by Benjamin Sakai
The Ghostbusters

2. Details Matter Most.

Highly intricate, Benjamin’s pieces are each crafted with love and dedication.  Upon discussion of each work it’s evident that much thought has gone into each expression, every exclamation.   These little details, the ones that will catch the eye and make you smile, think, wonder, those are the ones that turn an illustration into art.

"Did you see the coffee?" he asks with a giggle, pointing to a speck in the midst of a maze of activity.
“Did you see the coffee?” he asks with a giggle, pointing to a speck in the midst of a maze of activity.

3. Cultivate Your Own Personal Style.

Benjamin not only knows that he loves to draw, he knows what he loves to draw, what he can draw best and how to do so.  His art reflects his passion and personality:  quirky, witty, devious in the most wonderful way. At five, he confidently expresses his personality on paper, reminding me how important personal style is to honest, awesome design.

By Benjamin Sakai

4. Know Your Customer.

Benjamin regularly presents his work to me, just because.

“Hello Kitty! Your favorite!”

Though off the beaten path from the superheroes he usually sketches, Benjamin knows what I, his “customer” loves, and he never fails to deliver. It’s really quite simple.

5. Activate Your Imagination.

Sit with him for a moment and Benjamin will take you into his world, characterized by ninjas, angels, rocketships and dancing skeletons. Benjamin’s pencil is guided by his flourishing imagination, allowing him access to a world of wonder at any given moment.  Sitting besides him, sketching, I suddenly believe in Santa Claus again; the possibilities seem endless.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Benjamin flips through his special binder and breaks from his storytelling, “Why are you taking pictures of me again, Aunt Heather?” I explain and he smiles. He looks down, points to his work and continues on.

He has so much more to teach his biggest fan.



What has a child taught you about your craft? Share with me below!

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