Designing the new design studio business model
I recently read a DMI
article by Tennyson Pinheiro, professor and co-founder of the Design Thinking
program at ESPM Business School in São Paulo.
He contends that the design industry has changed but designers have not.
This is evident in Australia where there is still an over emphasis on the craft of design instead of the business of design. Designers are being left behind by web developers/designers who have latched onto the value they can offer to a client.
Tennyson contends that there are four 'old school' behaviours that are holding back many designers. There are some interesting links between these and a recent dbc project.
1. A failure to swap from "Designese" to business language.
Tennyson believes that designers fail to understand business language.
'Instead of thinking of them as a bunch of dumb analytical people, think of them as part of the design process; after all, the ability to tell engaging stories and sell ideas is a crucial part of this process. And that ability reaches a whole new level of importance now that we are looking for a seat on the upper management table, alongside people that have been selling their own ideas successfully over the years.' says Tennyson.
2. Getting inside the business of your clients
Designers need to understand how their clients create value for their company and for their
clients. Designers have to analyse how their clients work strategically. Recent design audits
conducted by the dbc with a group of Melbourne designers showed that many businesses can't express their strategy. In this case it was up to the designers to articulate the client company strategy. The case studies that are coming out of this project show that designers are well equipped to help business owners develop their strategy.
3. Get out of designland
It's easy to convince other designers or existing design users, that design has value.
Try it with a cynical CEO of a manufacturing business in Melbourne's south eastern suburbs. The results from the dbc project showed that it can be done but the designer has to think, talk and act like a business colleague not a craftsperson, 'creative' or artist. Networking in business groups is far more productive than attending design 'show and tell' seminars.
4. Give up the control thing
Clients should be part of the process. They have creative ideas, they often don't have the means to interprets, expand and express them. This is where the designer with the new business model comes into it. They are involving the client in the process by taking them on the journey. They tell the client the 'story' of how they took their inspiration and turned it into 'value based' design. They make the client a collaborator.
Design is becoming more about design thinking and strategy and less about placing emphasis on the craft. Designers that concentrate on craft risk being relegated to competing on low cost with the likes of 99 designs. Design studio owners and managers need to put more emphasis on solving the bigger communication problems, and bringing value to clients. The recently launched dbc Job Pricing eTutorial
shows how designers can build a costing system and then charge for the added value they bring to the client.
It's not just designers
As part of the recent dbc design in business strategy program
more than 100 businesses were contacted to take part. An overwhelming majority of these did not have a strategy plan for their business. That does not mean that they did not act strategically - they just did not recognise or formalise that strategy.
Most could not articulate how design might help their business. Most were not aware of design beyond the aesthetic aspects of product design or communication design.
What is the solution?
There is a need for more designers to develop a strategic approach in their businesses. However they cannot leave out the craft - it is assumed that they excel at this. Designers need to examine what it is they are good at and who they deliver the best results to. They need to learn how to examine a client business and articulate their strategy. Then convert it into design that adds value.
This involves rethinking their business model. They need to develop a depth of knowledge about a narrow field and then concentrate on supplying creative services to that narrow field.
Greg Branson 2012
dbc training - designers
The business of design - for designers
A series of eTutorials presenting the skills needed to operate a successful design business.
Job costing eTutorial
This eTutorial will help all designers work out the real cost of running a business and how to create a job costing system.
One page business plan
This eTutorial helps graphic designers develop a business plan that is concise and useable.
Practical advice on how to examine your current client base and expand it to capture new business.
Developing strategic design in your studio
This eTutorial helps graphic designers understand how strategic design can be part of their client services.
Writing the perfect design brief
This eTutorial helps graphic designers, design managers and studio owners prepare a design brief in response to a client briefing.
Conducting a Design audit
This eTutorial shows design studio owners a process for conducting a design audit.
Developing a business case for design
This eTutorial shows studio owners, design managers and account service people how to identify the need for design in new client markets.
Web production management
This eTutorial helps graphic designers, design managers and
studio owners make the move into producing websites for clients without
requiring any knowledge of web applications.