Management gurus say there are two ruling paradigms in business today; outside-in and inside-out. You can change your studio from the inside out or the outside in.
These two approaches use very different means to achieve the same end; creative business growth.

In working with creative businesses we always start with the inside-out approach by looking at what makes the studio tick.

The inside-out approach is guided by the belief the inner strengths and capabilities of the studio will make it excel over its competitors.
The outside-in approach is based on the belief that creating client value and client experiences are the keys to success.

The challenge is to get both these working in harmony.

Recently we have had some interesting results with the inside-out approach.

Inside-out – a case study in creative business growth

Earlier this year we started working with five creative businesses to explore their onlyness: what talent, skills and services made them unique.

First step was to develop their Design Value Proposition.

The DVP process involved firstly looking at their place in the industry to get a new perspective on their business. Each business showed clear ways to differentiate themselves. This differentiation was increased when they analysed the talent in the business. Then, using one of our DBC tools, they identified the strengths, and the weaknesses of each team member.

It led to the businesses changing their pitch to highlight their strengths. The process also identified gaps – gains to be had from upskilling team members.

Our role was to help them analyse productivity and pricing to get the most from their inhouse talent.

Design Business Model Canvas

All this information was poured into a Design Business Model Canvas (DBMC) – the perfect big picture tool to test the sustainability of a creative business.

The DBMC shows the internal and external workings of the creative business. When completed it shows how to build a creative business by understanding each of its elements;


  • competitors
  • client segments
  • client relationships
  • communication
  • Revenue streams


  • value proposition
  • strategies and activities
  • key resources
  • key partners
  • cost structures

Once you have your business plotted in a Design Business Model Canvas there’s two more valuable exercises:

  1. use something like our DBC client analysis system to identify key clients and their value to the studio
  2. do an Empathy mapping exercise to gain  insight into the thinking of key client contacts.

We use these insights to extend the Design Business Model Canvas by recording what type of relationship works best with each client. It also defines the relationships to be built with new clients.

The DBC design in business library

One of the interesting aspects of this program has been the number of creative businesses taking advantage of the DBC design in business library. Each week we collect dozens of articles related to how design is used in businesses. A number of the studios have identified niche areas that they can apply their talents to and the DBC library has given them extensive reading material to help.

Greg Branson

Want more?

Every studio or agency differs – if you would like to discuss specifics around the management of your design business, contact Greg Branson.

Want to read more about how we use the Design Business Model Canvas? Read this: Who said I can’t work miracles

Reading one of our articles for the first time? Want more  like this delivered to your inbox every Wednesday? The Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s  written specifically for Australian creatives by Australian creatives about the business of design. Best of all, it’s free.

About Greg Branson

Greg is a creative business coach with vast experience founding and managing an Australian design studio. He co-founded the Design Business Council to share his research and methods to improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed a series of processes and tools to help creatives manage their business better. He does that face to face and via online business coaching, specialising in small business mentoring. He can be contacted here.