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

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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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About the Author, Heather Sakai

Heather Sakai is the Community Manager here at Go Media. She helps designers prevent design disaster over at, where she serves as the Product Manager. She's proud to work for the most passionate creative agency in the universe, the best in Cleveland Web Design, custom branding and print.
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  • Lenny Terenzi

    Love this!! Thank you for sharing Heather!

    • Heather Sakai

      You’re welcome Lenny! Glad you enjoyed :) :)

  • Simon H.

    This is rad.

    • Heather Sakai

      Thanks Simon :)

  • Nathaniel Scramling

    I preach this same advice to my sisters almost daily, one of which who draws herself, ESPECIALLY the “Draw Everyday” bit. That’s what I did/do! Amazing how sometimes we need to look toward the younger generation rather than our elders for the answers.

    • Heather Sakai

      So true Nathaniel! Thank for reading!

  • William_Beachy

    I think this is the greatest post in the history of the GoMediaZine. Goodby Crule World!

    • Heather Sakai

      “Beachy rhymes with peachy”

  • Rob Jelinski

    My 3 and half year old son, Chris has taught me to keep design playful! I’m not much of a doodler or traditional artist anymore, and he has often reminded me of the beauty of imperfection.

    • Heather Sakai

      Great advice by your son, Rob! Thanks!

  • Nesbit Hatch

    Heather, Thank You, thank you, thank you so much for posting this article about Benjamin’s drawing obsession and expertise! It was a treat to be around him at niece Charlotte and Thomas’ wedding in September. Even though it was very hard to enter into a conversation with this very private and shy guy! I could see his mind inconstant motion, almost as fast as his tiny body moved through the space, busy with all his doings. Of course, older sis Helen got him on the dance floor, where he became an illustration in 3D of his drawings that you posted. In an instant he became aware of observers watching his massive dancing talent. He immediately quit and ran, realizing he was being watched in this very private movement.
    Later that weekend, he was sporting a pilots cap and a nasa space shuttle model that never left his head and his hand.
    What a treat to be around the wittig Sakai family that weekend!

    • Heather Sakai

      Love it, Nesbit! Glad you got to see Ben, and that you enjoyed my story! Love, Heather