Creating a design studio is easy. Sustaining it is the hard part. For fifteen years, Thinking*Room has continued to evolve and incorporate new ways of maintaining a sustainable business model, while preserving its core essence: the team comes first. As our team grows and the market changes, there are a few things to keep in mind to remain relevant. If you are planning on starting up your own design studio, here are some tips to make it last:
Set your standards above client expectations. Clients may have specific demands on what kind of branding outcome they would like, but that does not mean that we are constrained by those expectations. “A clear focus on conceptualization, rather than the visual aspect, is crucial for good design,” says Reagan, our copywriter. ‘We should not be tied down to a certain style. Instead, explore possibilities before settling on an idea.’ Surprise your client. Properly listen to them and utilise their comments to your advantage. By combining your client’s initial concept and a personal touch from your studio, your work would be invaluable.
Consistency is key. All works produced should adhere to the standards set. This way, you would keep your clients satisfied and give them solid ground to vouch for you when making recommendations.
“Offer something new and different”, suggests Evan, one of our graphic designers. Create works that make people look back and think twice. Engage them. In an era jam-packed with information, to stand out, your designs must catch both the eye and the mind. Aesthetic visuals are one thing, but in order to bring design to the next level, studios should develop an awareness towards what makes their design stand out among similarly well-designed works. Our interaction designer, Edwin, says: “Make people curious of who’s behind the work.”
Do not be afraid to venture into using design as a twofold strategy: both to entice potential customers and as a social critique. The wittiest results come about from a clear perception of the power design has in influencing the public.
“Support each other,” our graphic designer Randi succinctly puts it. A supportive working environment is crucial for the sustenance of any business, but more so in design studios. As design is so subjective, and studios very much dependent on its designers, there would definitely be moments when your co-workers do not agree with you. There would be moments when someone works at a completely different pace. There would be moments when a project fails to come into fruition. In these moments, you may quickly fall into the rabbit hole of blaming each other and effectively getting sick of seeing each other’s faces.
To temper the detrimental impact that these situations may have on your team, you must first ensure that everyone in the studio has a strong working relationship. Resolve any issues before it becomes too large to handle. Have lunch with your team. Go on trips with them. Do things with your team that are completely unrelated to work. Treat them as family: no matter how many times you fight, family still stands for each other. “At the core of it, create happiness in the office,” says Ritter, our art director.
According to our copywriter Reagan, “Selectively choose your clients. Turn down toxic or degrading clients.” We understand that designers need to make money. However, clients who clearly do not value your work are not worth your time and effort. At the end of the day, your studio’s integrity takes precedence over its financial books. Rejecting one client would mean some lost revenue, but losing a client who had not meant to appreciate your efforts in the first place might result in bad reviews, a crumbling reputation and losing much more.
Take projects that keep you on your feet, and are challenging enough to be both exciting and executable.
Take projects that keep you on your feet, and are challenging enough to be both exciting and executable. Take notice of a client’s passion for their brand, since they would be more willing to be collaborative in the process.
A bit of personality goes a long way. As a founder, maintaining a close connection with your team is absolutely fundamental to sustainability. “Eric Widjaja’s (Thinking*Room’s founder) spirit of going the extra mile is inherited to each generation of Thinking*Room’s members,” says Bram, one of our graphic designers. Trust your team to handle their workload and provide them with the resources needed to excel in their work. Initiate bonding sessions with your team, and genuinely care for them.
Become a mentor, guiding your team to continuously develop both as designers and individuals. For Ira, our art director, “[Eric] is the furthest thing from narrow-mindedness. He actively listens to suggestions from his designers, and has created a work environment that allows us to develop, resulting in design that remains relevant in a constantly changing age.”
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