Design a studio inside-out

Changing your studio from the inside-out.


The management gurus will tell you that there are two ruling paradigms in business today; outside-in and inside-out. These two approaches use very different means to achieve the same end; business growth.

In working with design studios I always start with the inside-out approach by looking at what makes the studio tick.

The inside-out approach is guided by the belief that the inner strengths and capabilities of the studio will make it excel over its competitors. The outside-in approach is based on the belief that client value creation and client experiences are the keys to success.

The task is to get both these working in a design studio.

I have had some interesting results with the inside-out approach in the first term of the Design Business School.

Five design studios started the program in March and have been working through the program to examine what talent, skills and services make them unique.

The first unit had them looking at their place in the industry. This gave some of them a very new perspective on their business. It showed that there were clear ways to differentiate themselves. This differentiation was increased when they analysed the talent in the studio. Using a special DBC format, they identified the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. This has lead to some studios changing their pitch to play up to the strengths they have. It also identified the gains that can be had from upskilling team members.

Design Business Model canvas

This information was then put into a Design Business Model Canvas. It’s here that they started to see how they could build the business by understanding all of its elements.

The canvas was further extended when the studios used the DBC client analysis system to identify key clients and their value to the studio. The Empathy mapping exercise then gave the studios an insight into the head of their key client contacts.

These insights have been put into the Design Business Model Canvas to record what  type of relationship will work best with each client. It also helps define the relationships that need to be built with new clients.

Understanding competitors

The next stage in Term 1 is for the studios to understand their competitors using the DBC five competitive forces approach. This helps studios understand what competitive forces they hope to use to their advantage and which ones are out of their control. This activity also differentiates them from their competitors many of who have never examined the competitive forces around them.

The DBC design in business library

One of the interesting aspects of the first term has been the number of studios that have taken advantage of the DBC design in business library. Each week I collect dozens of articles related to how design is used in businesses. I also collect business articles and research that can be of use to designers. A number of the studios have identified niche areas that they can apply their talents to and the DBC library has given them extensive reading material to help.

Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.