Talia Cotton on coding and creativity

Designer-coder Talia Cotton discusses how her experiences at agencies such as Pentagram gave her the confidence to set up her eponymous studio, and why creatives need to see more female founders as role models

Talia Cotton almost gave up on coding before she’d even started. At the time, she had just started the communication design course at Parsons School of Design and was required to do one coding class during the first semester, but something told her that she wasn’t going to be good at it.

“I said, ‘this isn’t going to be for me, I’m just going take it and pass and move on’,” she tells CR. “I think there were 15 sections of that class and only one of those 15 teachers was a woman. What’s tricky there, and what I see still to this day, is that it’s very difficult for women to see themselves doing something that they don’t see another woman doing.”

As it happened, the designer immediately fell in love with the creative possibilities of code and spent the rest of her time at Parsons honing her two crafts side-by-side. “Essentially, as long as I’ve been learning how to design I’ve also been implementing that thinking and assessing coding as a design tool,” she says. Since launching her eponymous creative agency Cotton in 2023, she’s continued to create work that explores the intersection of design and technology for high-profile clients including Google Arts & Culture, the New York Times, the Gates Foundation and MIT.