Design studio cultureDesigning studio culture

I have recently been doing a lot of work with studios who are wanting to improve workflow. This has led to looking at the studio positioning, roles and responsibilities (job descriptions) and the studio culture.

It’s all about people.

In  my work for all sized studios one aspect remains the same in the successful businesses: the designers need to believe in, and love, your studio as much as you do.

The reason is simple – they are your studio’s heart and soul; its strongest advocate, the driving force for the business and the key to your success. Understanding how valued your designers feel and the perceptions they have of your studio is important. It determines the way they will communicate about your studio to others.

We all know that communication from the owner to designers is critical in changing perceptions and needs to be tightly controlled. However the bigger issue is communication between designers and their network. This is much harder to control and has massive impact on job satisfaction and your brand.

A quick look at job satisfaction…

The ABS claims the average working 24 – 34 year old Australian will spend approximately 39% of their waking life at work. The big question is how many of these people actually work in a job they love.

An Australian Workplace Study showed that one way to increase job satisfaction would be to work for a small business. This study found that the most significant difference between small to large organisations related to the amount of ‘say’ employees have about what happens in their job. Is it as simple as having a conversation between owners and designers?

Communication issues in the studio commonly cause a disconnect among designers, especially as the studio grows. This can lead to micro-cultures, cynicism, confusion and low self confidence among the designers.

If your designers can’t communicate with each other internally then how on earth is your brand going to make any sense to clients?

Good internal systems lead to good quality design.

Recently I’ve been working with a few studios that have taken the initiative to understand their designers’ happiness and productivity. They realise this is directly linked to understanding their motivators and drivers as well as any micro-cultures in the studio.

The psychology behind this process tells us we need to use the correct communication tools to cut through blockages in corporate messages. This starts by understanding that designers want to belong to an organisation that has a demonstrated vision and values they agree with.

Develop a workplace culture

More studios are taking an interest in workplace culture to increase designer happiness through empathy driven incentives and team building exercises. This can take the form of workshops that develop an agreed set of behaviours that show respect for each other.

These seemingly small and personal gestures help to close the gap between designers at all levels, ultimately opening the lines of communication and breaking down cultural barriers that can detract from your brand.

This added to a clearly communicated vision for the studio and acceptance of roles and responsibilities will develop a unique studio culture.

The take away

Branding isn’t just something you do for clients. The ultimate goal is to have all your designers communicating your brand to your market. You do this by understanding their needs and communicating with them. And you give them the means to reinforce this message when they communicate with workmates.


Greg Branson

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about the many programs the DBC offers.

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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.