Step away from the computer

If there is one thing  we’ve learnt from hosting two years of ‘designerly’ breakfasts in downtown Melbourne, Australia; it’s the value of simply stepping away from your computer to share / talk / eat with other creatives.  As one breakfaster wrote in an email this week: for me, the breakfasts offer a much needed sanity check and realisation that we’re all just people, doing similar things, going through the same stuff. It’s clarity and reassurance that you’re doing the right thing.

We took the breakfast concept into the night and ran two trial UNseminars.
They were a hit.
We’re on a roll.
Next year we’re taking it further …

Next year we’re planning a calendar of topics curated to interest all creatives.
Here’s a run down (in no particular order):

  • Building a studio culture.
    Healthy cultures with engaged employees have more effective teams and better business performance. That’s a given, but how do you build studio culture from scratch, or even change one that’s gone a little awry? Rumour is, it can get ugly before it gets better. We’re going to find out.
  • Price the client not the job – say no to hourly rates.
    That old chestnut. We all know billing by the hour is not sustainable but what do you say when a client asks what your hourly rate is?
    We’re bringing some clients to the table to thrash this one out. (The topic, not the clients.)
    You’ll leave this night with tools and strategies to combat this pesky question.
  • Interships/apprenticeships.
    The universities spew out more graduates than we can employ. It’s demoralising for them and frustrating for us.
    There’s got to be a solution: maybe we start a design cadetship program? Or a creative apprenticeship? Or maybe it is an internship, just better?
    We’re going to look what’s around and come up with a model that will work for the intern and your studio.
  • Everyone’s a strategist. Or are they?
    It’s no longer enough to be a designer, now you need to be a strategist as well.
    But when you say you sell strategy to clients, what exactly do you do? Brand strategy? Creative Strategy? Business strategy?
    We’re going to talk about what strategy is, and isn’t. And whether you need it at all…
  • Running an ethical studios.
    What makes an ethical studio? Is it about sustainability? Is it about recycling?
    What are the steps to running an ethical studio, and are Not For Profits the only ethical clients?
    This UNseminar is going to talk BCorps, the value (and pitfalls) of working pro bono, and everything inbetween.
  • Risk management: the 10 greatest risks to a design studio.
    There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
    We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
    We’re going to investigate what could possibly go wrong running a design studio.
    We’ve got designers willing to talk about what went wrong and what nearly went wrong, and more importantly, how to avoid both.
  • Working smarter not harder. 
    There are successful studios working a four hour day. Some are working a four day week.
    It is possible to work shorter hours and still service clients well … you just need to … come along and hear how 🙂
  • Hiring
    Hiring is arguably the hardest part of managing a creative practice. But when is the right time to hire?
    Better still who is the right person to hire?
    Studio’s need diversity to deliver a balanced product but how do you hire for diversity?
    We’re going to talk about what it takes to get the person you want while making sure employees get the job they want.
  • How the education system is failing the creative industries.
    The universities are pumping out graduates, few of whom are employable without further study. Enrolment in our online courses increasing. Private colleges are booming. The Award school is more attractive than ever. Others like Chris Doyle are trying to single-handedly bridge the gap between design education and work.
    What’s going wrong and what can we do about it? We’re going in.

Nine great topics guaranteed to produce robust, thoughtful discussion.

*UNseminars are where the views of the audience are just as important as those of the speakers. We have a couple of ‘experts’ that start the discussion rolling and then it’s a safe, open forum where views, ideas, opinions are offered. The more diverse the better. Everyone leaves with more. More knowledge, more friends and most of all, more solutions to life as a creative.

If you know someone that you think might be a good ‘expert’ for one of these topics, do get in touch.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Carol Mackay

This illustration is from a Sunday lunch at Merricks General Store. I think we looked at these ladies bottoms for a good 10 minutes as they discussed the pros and cons of each cake on view. They were having a great time choosing well.


2018 is a big year for Carol. Thirty-three years after founding Mackay Branson design, she transitioned from client-focused projects to use her skills with the Design Business Council, and The Design Business School. Her design expertise is in making the complex simple. Her special skill is in packaging complicated content into bite-sized chunks of information that can be easily understood and digested.

Carol has just written a new program for the The Design Business School. The Design Studio Management Program is aimed at designers, design graduates and existing design studio managers to help them develop skills to fast track their career path. Contact Carol for more information.

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