4 Reasons More Startups are Hiring Art Students


A long time ago, I decided to focus my education on studio art, and since then I’ve been badgered with more or less the same question to anyone who finds out about my background:

What are you going to do with that?

In our success driven world, having an art degree is akin to having some sort of communicable disease where the only cure is giving up on your creative dreams and getting a STEM education so you don’t starve.

While I’m often inclined to give in and make fun of my two art degrees (hey there all you MFAs!), going to art school and pursuing my passion will never be a regret of mine.

What most people don’t know is that art school offers its students way more than questionable fashion choices and an environment where cotton candy colored hair is appropriate. In those paint-spattered classrooms, art students are challenged to question their process and grow every single day–skills that are becoming more and more crucial to remaining competitive in the business world.

Below, I break down why it’s worth seeking out creative candidates and why more startups are doing just that:

1. They’re more easily coached:

As cliche as it might sound, it’s true. Throughout your arts education, you are taught to constantly take a step back from your work and evaluate with a critical eye. Entire hours of art classrooms are dedicated to everyone’s least favorite thing to do: critique. With practice, this becomes second nature. The ability to give and receive open feedback from both yourself and your peers becomes as natural as breathing or hoarding the good drawing pens.

Something we do at Sapper is called ‘radical candor.’ After learning more about what it is, it turns out that this is something that art schools all across the country are already teaching their students to do: make space to give and receive critique on your skills and work objectively and to see feedback as a gift, rather than a slight.

When I first learned about Sapper incorporating this seemingly art world exclusive practice, it made total sense. After all, if we’re going to be constantly pushing ourselves to be the best, we need to keep an unflinching critical eye on ourselves and our work. You’d have to ask my coworkers to confirm, but jumping right into practicing radical candor felt pretty seamless to me. If I can tell someone that their meat painting is too simplistic, surely I can offer advice to someone as to how they can better organize their workflow.

2. They “think differently”... all the time

It’s true that once you enter art school you are taught the fundamentals (I have drawn more still lifes of boxes than I care to remember), but then sophomore year happens and you’re thrown into the deep end of finding your own way.

Creatives foster a culture of learning the rules, but then choose to bend and break them when they don’t work for that person or project. In fact, if you know anything about history, it’s basically decades of artists telling the ones that came before them that they were wrong and/or breaking the so-called ‘rules’ of artistic law.

Sapper embraces and encourages this kind of behavior in that each employee is empowered to change, modify, or make new rules for practices within the company, whether that be for their own day-to-day or a company-wide rule.

While this sounds chaotic, in practice, it has helped us evolve to be a better, more agile company. Practices are implemented and tested swiftly, allowing us to pivot as needed.

3. They have a superhuman attention to detail

Art school teaches students that even the slightest nuance can affect an overall project and how it is perceived. Materials chosen and marks made can mean the difference between a masterpiece and an incomplete work. I know that I’ve personally spent hours of my life both deconstructing my own and my peers’ choices when it comes to color, construction, and more.

The details matter and they’re worth getting right.

At Sapper, we are admittedly not in the sexiest of business worlds with lead generation, but we take every opportunity to inject our creativity into our work, and both us and our clients are able to reap these benefits.

Did I ever think making hilariously bad dad jokes would help my clients get more meetings with decision makers? No. Am I happy that it does? Absolutely. Beyond bad jokes, creatives know the importance of making sure that our audience, our clients, feel heard. If we can add some flair to give them an edge, we absolutely will.

4. They’re natural “self starters”

A skill that all young artists must learn when entering school is self-discipline. Countless hours need to be spent in the studio working on projects, unless you want to spend way too many nights trying not to glue your fingers together. Creatives are quick to learn that if they are going to continue to keep up with projects and deadlines that they need to set and keep working hours regularly into their schedules. A self-directed, hard-nosed work ethic is the bedrock of any successful creative.

Sapper is pretty infamous for employing a whole host of creatives. You’ll find musicians, visual artists, photographers, interior decorators, bakers, filmmakers, and more filling the Ikea furniture in our office. A phrase that I’ve heard constantly since I have been employed here has been “It’s so nice to be surrounded by people who work as hard, if not harder, than I do” and I have no doubt it’s due to many of our shared backgrounds in the arts.

Bottom Line

Art school taught me a more than how to tell you all the nuances of a color wheel and which glue is best to use for a project (when in doubt, use epoxy); it gave me valuable skills that serve both me and the companies I’ve worked for.If you’re looking for a workforce that will not only show up and do their jobs well, but one that will also challenge you to innovate and grow beyond your expectations, look no further than the people who engage in jam sessions and throw paint around on their days off.

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