Walking into President Len Schlesinger’s office at Babson College, one of the first things you’ll notice is a cartoon hanging on his wall that reads, “Don’t be the best in the world at what you do. Be the only one in the world to do what you do.” It was designed by Hugh MacLeod — perhaps better known as @gapingvoid — who just recently became the College’s official cartoonist.
Blogging since 2003, MacLeod believes in “art with a purpose,” saying his purpose is to “use cartoons as a way of getting people to think.” In MacLeod’s world, most other cartoonists are “writing about middle class insecurities and making fun of yuppies and hipsters.” MacLeod’s images are designed to have a meaningful message and go beyond satire into a realm he calls “cerebral.”
What drew him to Babson was their philosophy on entrepreneurship, writing in August “this [was] such an obvious gig for gapingvoid.” MacLeod said Babson’s done a great job at shaking up the world of higher education, particularly in the MBA department. He also said it was a necessity, especially when stacked up next to schools like Harvard and MIT. “How else would a small college survive?” he asked, right before admitting he felt bad for “kids these days.”
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have to learn how to be entrepreneurs,” MacLeod said. “Those jobs that were waiting for me, aren’t waiting for them anymore.”
MacLeod called Babson one of the only schools “situated for the new reality,” claiming that traditional academia is really only well suited for the scientist or academic.
“If you’re just a kid who wants a liberal arts degree to enter the work force, [college is] a convoluted way to do that,” he said. “At Babson, though, they show you that you’re going to have to hustle for the rest of your life, so you might as well start now.”
With a personal background in entrepreneurship, having left his advertising job on Madison Avenue for a life of doodling cartoons on the back of business cards, MacLeod finds the business world one of the most interesting parts of the world there is, and has partnered with several companies, including Intel (right), Thoughtworks and Purina to give them a new, edgier lease on life in a way that’s easy to digest.
“You can express complex thoughts with cartoons, because you can easily digest them,” MacLeod said, also admitting he first started drawing them mostly because it gave him something to do. “This was before you had Internet on your phone. What did people do when they were waiting around? They didn’t have a Twitter account.”
Through his cartoons, he’s tackled a series of complicated issues, many of which touch upon business and entrepreneurship. He’s also provided tips, some of the most universal being on the topic of “How To Be Creative.” His suggestions? Ignore everybody, put the hours in, sing in your own voice and avoid crowds altogether.
A personal favorite, however, has to be his saying, “The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to change the world,” which is where he really describes how he got into being a cartoonist. He was sitting at a bar, “feeling a bit burned out by work and life in general,” and just started drawing on the back of business cards. He writes,
It was so liberating to be doing something that didn’t have to impress anybody, for a change. It was so liberating to have something that belonged just to me and no one else, for a change. It was so liberating to feel complete sovereignty, for a change. To feel complete freedom, for a change. And of course, it was then, and only then, that the outside world started paying attention. Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more it will change the world. That’s what doodling on business cards taught me.
And here are some examples of what those business cards have turned into —