12 Most Genius Ways Leonardo da Vinci Promoted Himself

12 Most Genius Ways Leonardo da Vinci Promoted Himself

In celebration of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday (Sunday, April 15th), I present you with a 12 Most post from Leonardo himself. As another superb example of his genius, this shows that even a Renaissance man needs to set himself apart at times, and sell himself.

Dare I say, this is also a great example of personal branding — defining the essence of who he is, telling a compelling story, and presenting his skills and talents in a way that translates into exactly what Leonardo da Vinci will do for a potential client. He was a master of many things, and here he proves himself to be a master marketer as well. Perhaps this post should be considered nothing less than “The Da Vinci Code for Self Promotion.”

Prior to becoming the one and only “Leonardo,” he was a guy who made weapons. His pals probably just called him Leo. At the tender age of 30, he ignored the 12 Most submissions guidelines and sent this post directly to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan in 1482. The rest is history…

Leonardo, da Vinci, self promotion, marketing, personal branding

Letter to the Duke of Milan (click to enlarge)

“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.”

1. I build bridges and destroy others

“I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.”

2. I make great machines

“I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.”

3. I have methods of violent destruction

“If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.”

4. I terrorize enemies

“Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.”

5. I build powerful sea vessels

“And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.”

6. I have sneaky tricks for getting closer to the enemy

“I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.”

7. I make armored vehicles that transport troops

“I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.”

8. I make weapons and artillery

“In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.”

9. I create new machines never before seen

“Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.”

10. I am a first-rate architect and public works engineer

“In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.”

11. I create statues and wonderful paintings

“I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.”

12. I invent fascinating contraptions and figure out the world’s secrets

I design flying machines, study science and biology, and create a million and one other amazing things. (OK-OK, this one was added by me)

“Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency — to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”

And if YOU would like to comment, please do so below!


*Disclaimer: Leonardo da Vinci’s words appear in their entirety and between quotation marks. Modifications were made outside of the quotation marks to adapt to the 12 Most style (remember, he ignored the 12 Most submission guidelines!). Post was inspired by Mark Cenedella and his post “Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume.

Featured image courtesy of MAMJODH licensed via Creative Commons. Graphic blandishment by Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.

Leonardo da Vinci letter image courtesy of cenedella.com/stone, Copyright Leonardo3 www.leonardo3.net

Article by Paul Biedermann

Paul Biedermann


Paul Biedermann is Creative Director/Owner of re:DESIGN and Managing Partner/Editor-in-Chief of 12 Most. re:DESIGN specializes in Strategic Design, Brand Identity, and Visual Content Marketing. Paul intersects smart, custom design with visual business strategies that reach, engage, and inspire people to action. He also founded the vibrant re:DESIGN Google+ community for those who value what good design can do for business, and served on the Board of Directors of the Social Media Association. Paul began his career at ABC Broadcasting before moving to a design agency that created innovative campaigns for ESPN and then becoming Art Director for NFL Properties. As Creative Director for The McGraw-Hill Companies, Paul spearheaded projects for such leading brands as Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek, J.D. Power and Associates, Architectural Record, and McGraw-Hill Education. You can follow Paul on Twitter, "Like" re:DESIGN on Facebook, circle him on Google+, follow him on Pinterest or visit his blog.

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Very instructive!  Focused brevity brings intended results. Much to learn from this approach. Thank you for sharing.


Actually Leonardo was first brought to court as a lute player. 


WOW Paul great list, knew about the weapons and art not the other on list. great to be learning. BTW Mona Lisa is missing something that most of us have. :-)


 @PaulBiedermann Very enlightening post..aside from admiring the Mona Lisa and other paintings, did not realize the scope of Da Vinci's other talents, especially weaponry! 


Outstanding post, Paul. Believe it or not, I was just researching Da Vinci recently for a pending 12 Most post...yours is better!


The man was gifted and is considered to be the most talented man to ever live (engineering, medical science, artist, etc.)


This was a really interesting and creative post. I have to rethink how I envision Leonardo! I saw an amazing exhibit about him in Chicago that I will never forget.  


Add to his resume "A Branding Genius!" Thanks so much, Paul.

PaulBiedermann moderator

@BruceSallan Well, sure... but it's THE Leonardo so we give him a pass!