5 things successful studios do

This article is about 5 things common to the successful studios we work with.
What’s successful you may well ask?
Good question.
Successful studios – in our view – are where everyone is happy, healthy and well rewarded.

Five things we commonly see in successful studios (in no particular order) are:

  1. Expectations are well managed. Communication is key. Everyone knows what is expected of them and why. Usually from a mixture of regular one-on-ones (micro) daily WIPs (middle-ground), or detailed job descriptions (macro).
  2. Someone different to the creatives handles the finances. They can negotiate better because they are not emotionally invested. They invoice regularly because it’s their job and they understand it’s the key to healthy cashflow. And they can be the badass when clients are tardy paying.
  3. Most of the time is spent working together, in the one place. Founders/owners love working remotely, but it’s not building studio culture, it’s not building a collaborative team and it’s not nurturing new talent. Working solo means everyone is responsibility for maintaining their own energy and that’s relentless. It was a great short-term fix but it’s not the answer to building sustainable studios. And if you’re a solo operator, that may mean working from a co-working space so you can trade energy with others.
  4. Everyone has a relevant, practical, job description. Yep, everyone. Even the founders. (See point 1.) Job descriptions differentiate the roles of partners, bring clarity to a role for employees and explain clearly what is expected to get to the next step of your career and rewards. It addresses what a great job looks like, compared to a mediocre or bad job. Gold.
  5. Egos are left at the door. Everyone is respected, valued and heard. There is no one maestro with the answers. There is genuine mentoring. (See point 3.) Everyone at every level genuinely rejoices in another’s success. That’s what builds a studio culture (see point 2).

So what?

Our creative industry is full of great designers striving to deliver creative solutions while managing skittish clients in a fragile economy. It just makes sense to watch and learn from peers.


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Carol Mackay

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
We help designers build better, stronger, more sustainable, businesses.

Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.

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About Carol

After 30+ years running a design studio, I accumulated a pretty special network of fellow designers. One thing most have in common: a need for more information about the ‘business’ side of design. Most are impatient with any task competing for time spent doing what they love – designing so they wanted more info about how to work more efficiently and effectively.

Not me. I love that intersection between design and business. I built a career working with Ombudsman schemes, the Emergency Services sector and the Courts. My special power has always been an ability to use design to translate the difficult to understand or the unpalatable message.

I now use exactly the same skills with creative business owners. I translate the indigestible into bite-sized chunks of information. I share insights, introduce tools and embed processes to help others build confidence business decision-making skills. More confidence makes it easier to grasp opportunities. More confidence makes it easier to recognise a good client from the bad.

Outside DBC I have mentored with Womentor, AGDA and most recently with The Aunties.
And I’m a proud board member of Never Not Creative. Ask me about internships 😉

Always happy to chat, I can be contacted here.


For a short while, an archive of my design work at mbdesign.com.au.
My current work can be viewed at designbusinesscouncil.com and designbusinessschool.com.au.

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