Studio culture and job descriptions

Much of my work in the Chairman program is with businesses who want to change. I work with forward-thinking studio owners who recognise they can’t keep doing the same thing for the next 10 years.

The plans for this change are generally well thought through; they have a positioning to move them into new markets and services.

The major shift needed is with the studio team.

As John Jones, DeAnne Aguirre, and Matthew Calderone from Booz Allen recently wrote in an article on the challenge for business owners undertaking change management:

“ … to succeed, they also must have an intimate understanding of the human side of change management — the alignment of the company’s culture, values, people, and behaviors — to encourage the desired results. Plans themselves do not capture value; value is realized only through the sustained, collective actions of the … employees who are responsible for designing, executing, and living with the changed environment.”

This sums up the issue for many studio owners grappling with making changes and bringing the team along with them.

My experience shows some basics that need to be put in place to make this happen.

Job description

Often seen as a boring, must do activity, the humble job description is the key to defining change and how the team can be part of it.

Job descriptions:

  • document a studio’s positioning and describe each person’s role
  • explain a studio’s workflow and how designers interact with each other
  • give designers an opportunity to define how they want to add to the studio culture
  • define the jobs to be done in a studio, so everyone understands the bigger picture
  • identify the tasks a designer is responsible for, and the percentage of time they will commit to that task
  • report on key performance measures and key performance indicators, such as billed hours.

Probably the most important part is the definition of the studio culture. It’s here you outline the behaviours that the team have agreed to.

Agreed behaviours

Agreed behaviours are the soft skills you want designers to adopt to foster the studio culture. Examples might include:

  • becoming a morning person, even if you are not
  • respect others by not bringing your mobile phone to a meeting
  • ask for, and be receptive to feedback
  • offer to help before being asked.

A unified approach

Successful job descriptions are developed from the top down. First step is to document the roles and responsibilities of the studio owner/s, then work down the management hierarchy.

This leads to a clear definition of responsibilities, accountabilities, support roles and delegation. Everyone will understand their role on every project in the studio.

The takeaway

Finally, never forget preparing a job description is a human activity. It should be discussed with each team member. Take time to discuss the document line by line so everyone accepts and agrees on the content.


Want to know more about job descriptions or building a studio culture? Contact Greg.


Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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Greg Branson

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

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.

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