Designers aren’t slaves

I’ve been around the design industry a long time.
I’ve seen all types of design businesses.
I’ve seen the patriarchal approach that leads.
I’ve seen the matriarchal ‘family’ approach that nurtures.
And I’ve seen the slave factories that exploit.

I’ve heard the story “Sure, you’ll work long hours and the pay isn’t that great, but it will be worth it when this studio is listed on your resume.”

The reality is, designers working long hours is counter productive. It’s not sustainable. Even if you can extract extra hours today, the value of work they do the next day is lessened. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Overloading designers causes stress which reduces productivity.

Happy designers are more productive

We have worked with hundreds of studios over the past 13 years and we can confidently say that you CAN have a happy, productive design team, make good profits and avoid stress.

Overload – the most common reason designers are treated like slaves – happens for many reasons. The most common reasons are:

  • under estimating: of time and/or resources
  • scheduling issues: not planning ahead or having a B plan
  • mentoring: a designer not understanding how to avoid a roadblock
  • skills: not having the right designer for the right job, and
  • managing client expectations: in timeline and budget.

Any or all of these are learned tasks when done well help manage workload and reduce stress.

It’s about finding a balance, and that’s the first step in our Chair program. Finding a balance in the workload and finding a balance in the skill share of the studio.

Our first step is investigating the workload and each designer’s role. We work alongside designers to understand their strengths and weaknesses. That helps build a realistic job description and that helps them become more productive.

The Chair program

The DBC Chair program is more than mentoring for design studio owners. It’s based on a board of management model common in other professional businesses.

Problem is, creative studios aren’t like other professional businesses. Leaders of a creative business are often lonely and without support.

Sustaining a business in our competitive landscape needs management knowledge and expertise. It needs someone taking a ‘helicopter view’ while others are on the ground, dealing with the day to day dramas. Problem is, there’s not usually enough headspace, let alone cashflow to employ that expertise.

The answer is the DBC Chair program – a six-month commitment involving monthly meetings to discuss your business and your challenges.

Meetings are scheduled, have an agenda tailored to your needs and your studio, and minutes– accountability delivers results. Part of each meeting is to set (and review) measurement goals to monitor improvements. Between meetings, Greg and/or Carol are available for phone, skype or email support as needed.

It’s access to two, design management knowledge banks to help you manage your studio, plan growth and even negotiate with staff.


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.