A Switch That Flicked

The long story of a small realization.

A Switch That Flicked

Vibes
a small studio
By 
April 29, 2022

The long story of a small realization

When I joined a small studio there were a lot of documented processes. In fact, our Notion was like process inception that explained everything we do, everything we want to do and every blue sky thought we ever had about what we want to do that it was both inspiring and demoralizing. What I figured out was that you could essentially identify the locked in processes by the effort put into that page (icon, colors = official) but the rest of it was layer on top of layer of half-baked ideas. They were all probably the result of super fun collab sessions and truthfully, nothing gets me more keen on my day-to-day than a refreshing all-team aspirational collab. People are talking about the really good stuff. Not the free lunch kind of stuff but the building a creative incubator, or a digital zine kinda stuff. Often resulting in a few dozen stickie notes, a notebook, and some follow-up lists. Needless to say, there was a lot of evidence of collaboration and brainstorming in the studio's Notion workspace.

Anyway - nothing better than that - So stumbling on all these goodies in my first week was tantalizing, albeit I wasn't a part of the actual get-together but whatever, this is my new team! Much like in the past, I felt that in this new setting, things were different and a small studio had figured out how to make these things actually happen. I felt I had finally found a place that had follow-through and didn't just ride the coattails of blind excitement until it wore off (just in time for another all-team!). And there was something different about a small studio - but it wasn't what I thought. They, much like past companies I had worked for also struggled on follow-through, but that quickly became less important than the why. Previously I’d experienced revenue becoming the driving force in decision making, leaving dreamland behind. For a small studio, It wasn’t that. Everyone intended to follow through on quarterly goals, our internal projects, and our overall vision but constantly pushing the vision and focusing on the next big thing at every turn, takes a lot of growing pain, and growing takes up time.

Before this sounds like I’m suggesting learning and growing as a creative studio is bad, I’m going to instead state the obvious; you need as much time as possible for creativity. Because creativity takes on many forms - infinite forms - and half of that time is going to be spent getting stuck, and trying to get unstuck, another quarter of it collaborating and then finally, when you get it, you might use the last quarter of the time to go make something. And this is where we’ve seen a lot of struggle. We can’t expect someone to be able to jump to that final quarter of making things without validating the need for aaaaall that time before that goes into it. As much as we truly wanted to give everyone what they needed, offer them dream projects, and ample time for personal development, nobody was capable of follow-through because we had missed something. We were giving our team permission to use time we hadn’t made for them yet. The workloads didn’t lighten, the processes didn’t change and the roles and responsibilities were still unrefined. But hey! We support you taking that course and please pursue your passion for teaching or illustration. All this gave us was a heavy “should” feeling. “I should be developing my skills, I should be working on that passion project because the studio is supporting me, what’s my problem?” The problem is without having other work alleviated, we’re forced to pile this on top and that’s not how the studio wanted it to be for our team.

So there we were, with was access to anything, but no time to take advantage. This became obvious in several ways. People were starting things but not finishing, people were using the word “excited” a lot, only for that idea to wither away, and the line between personal development and doing well at work was getting blurry in a bad way. It’s much clearer in hindsight but at the time we realized something needed to change and our team needed some breathing room, so we decided to look inwards and refine the things we could refine. Not so that we could take on more work but so we could support and protect honest to goodness time meant for the wellbeing of our team, and the health and happiness of everyone on it. During that time there were only three things that we focused on. Groundwork in the form of;

Process

Foresight

Flexibility

The time we need to follow through on the blue sky stuff does not need to come from late nights, weekends, and sacrificing recovery time, it can come from groundwork and flexibility. The first form of groundwork is processes in keeping with the integrity of our team. And from that massive process (aka - how we execute on all the elements of our studio) comes tried and true procedures, guides, templates, and resources that make sure nobody has to start from scratch. And along with building these processes and documenting them in a clear and concise way, we also have to educate the entire team on how to find and use all this groundwork - or at least teach them to go looking for it before they dive in. Because if we do the groundwork and nobody is using it, then we’re truly looking at wasted time for the learner and the teacher... and probably a lot of duplicated processes and those half-baked concepts I mentioned finding in my first week.

There’s also groundwork in the form of foresight. Squeezing creative play and explorative R+D into a year that is up and running is SO HARD! Things get pushed and client work is the priority when push comes to shove. To combat that, we made a calendar for the upcoming year when everything was slow and winding down, and added days throughout the year that are designated internal, R+D weeks, and studio closures. When we scope out projects for that year, we state in the contract that the studio is not producing client work on those days and we plan around them. So far, so good.

Then finally there’s the flexibility point. We found that we don’t need to laminate (figuratively) any of those procedures. Instead, it worked to keep monitoring and listening so we could iterate and improve. The people at the studio might change, the size might change, and even service offerings and the relationships with clients will change so procedures need to change with them. In fact, some of the greatest improvements at a small studio were made when someone questioned something fundamental or what was previously thought to be untouchable, like when we overhauled our recurring schedule or rejigged our design process twice in one year.

These three elements are not groundbreaking but that’s what we like about them.

Process - Record things you do so people can learn from your failures and successes.

Foresight - Set aside significant amounts of time, AHEAD OF TIME for internal projects, team collaboration, and studio closures.

Flexibility - When it comes to change, nothing should be excluded from consideration. Just try it out! MVP style.

And that's what we've figured out for ourselves that works for us at the moment. If you’re interested in reading about how these 3 things come to life at the studio, check out our A-OS, Just Because Weeks, or an example of a quick change we made that stuck!

empowered-by-history

Empowered by History

Looking back intentionally to move forward

Read the Article
empowered-by-history

Empowered by History

Looking back intentionally to move forward

shine-like-an-emerging-creative

Shine like an emerging creative

The power of leaning into play

Read the Article
shine-like-an-emerging-creative

Shine like an emerging creative

The power of leaning into play

talk-yourself-up

Talk yourself up

Affirmations for successful living

Read the Article
talk-yourself-up

Talk yourself up

Affirmations for successful living

finding-happy

Finding Happy

Embracing a New path

Read the Article
finding-happy

Finding Happy

Embracing a New path

identity-mosaic

Identity Mosaic

Crafting a masterpiece in intentional bits

Read the Article
identity-mosaic

Identity Mosaic

Crafting a masterpiece in intentional bits

secret-weapon

The Brand Designer’s Secret Weapon

IdARCH completely bridges the gap between brand strategy and design.

Read the Article
secret-weapon

The Brand Designer’s Secret Weapon

IdARCH completely bridges the gap between brand strategy and design.

perish-the-thought

Perish the Thought!

Doubt is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.

Read the Article
perish-the-thought

Perish the Thought!

Doubt is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.

the-beauty-bias

The Beauty Bias

We've got a secret

Read the Article
the-beauty-bias

The Beauty Bias

We've got a secret

whats-your-anthem

What’s Your Anthem?

Every superhero has a theme song, and so should every creative.

Read the Article
whats-your-anthem

What’s Your Anthem?

Every superhero has a theme song, and so should every creative.

the-lonely-road

The Lonely Road

The path that makes all the difference

Read the Article
the-lonely-road

The Lonely Road

The path that makes all the difference

make-them-cry

Make them Cry!

The profound power of Clarity

Read the Article
make-them-cry

Make them Cry!

The profound power of Clarity

break-the-system

Break The System

The change we all need

Read the Article
break-the-system

Break The System

The change we all need

leading-through-cancer

Leading through Cancer!

A journey of transformation

Read the Article
leading-through-cancer

Leading through Cancer!

A journey of transformation

the-case-for-i-dont-know

The case for I don't know

You don't have to have it all figured out

Read the Article
the-case-for-i-dont-know

The case for I don't know

You don't have to have it all figured out

dodge-the-burn

Dodge the Burn

Using your passion as the compass for navigating career choices

Read the Article
dodge-the-burn

Dodge the Burn

Using your passion as the compass for navigating career choices

dang-it-its-been-a-year

Dang! It's been a year

A Journey of Design, Inspiration, and You!

Read the Article
dang-it-its-been-a-year

Dang! It's been a year

A Journey of Design, Inspiration, and You!

whats-in-a-name

What's in a name?

The first word of your story

Read the Article
whats-in-a-name

What's in a name?

The first word of your story

the-founders-dilemma

The Founder's Dilemma

The secret weapon most startup founders forget.

Read the Article
the-founders-dilemma

The Founder's Dilemma

The secret weapon most startup founders forget.

love-you

Love You!

Beyond the Work

Read the Article
love-you

Love You!

Beyond the Work

hiring-an-in-house-designer

Hiring an in-house designer

Management considerations

Read the Article
hiring-an-in-house-designer

Hiring an in-house designer

Management considerations

play-know-grow

Play. Know. Grow.

How we served the world the sporting life partner for people of colour.

Read the Article
play-know-grow

Play. Know. Grow.

How we served the world the sporting life partner for people of colour.

the-creative-operating-system

The Creative Operating System

The path to becoming one of none

Read the Article
the-creative-operating-system

The Creative Operating System

The path to becoming one of none

stay-peachy

Stay Peachy!

How the mood of the world, is captured in color.

Read the Article
stay-peachy

Stay Peachy!

How the mood of the world, is captured in color.

find-your-vibe

Find your Vibe!

Refreshing Identity Architecture to empower more partners

Read the Article
find-your-vibe

Find your Vibe!

Refreshing Identity Architecture to empower more partners

to-the-clouds

To the Clouds

Building with Sky-High Ambition

Read the Article
to-the-clouds

To the Clouds

Building with Sky-High Ambition

the-creative-assist

The Creative Assist

Trusting in others to win

Read the Article
the-creative-assist

The Creative Assist

Trusting in others to win

design-systems-matter

Design Systems Matter

The investment that improves efficiency and drives scalability

Read the Article
design-systems-matter

Design Systems Matter

The investment that improves efficiency and drives scalability

built-on-trust

Built on Trust

The intentional character trait that fuels legacies

Read the Article
built-on-trust

Built on Trust

The intentional character trait that fuels legacies

diversity-the-winning-mix

Diversity: The Winning Mix

How diverse perspectives deliver sustained innovation

Read the Article
diversity-the-winning-mix

Diversity: The Winning Mix

How diverse perspectives deliver sustained innovation

small-on-ai

Small on AI

Our standard of best practice on Generative AI

Read the Article
small-on-ai

Small on AI

Our standard of best practice on Generative AI

identity-over-data

Identity over Data

In a world obsessed with data, the most distinctive advantage comes from a deeper understanding of people.

Read the Article
identity-over-data

Identity over Data

In a world obsessed with data, the most distinctive advantage comes from a deeper understanding of people.

empathy-the-competitive-advantage

Empathy: The Competitive Advantage

Connecting with people for business impact

Read the Article
empathy-the-competitive-advantage

Empathy: The Competitive Advantage

Connecting with people for business impact

branding-on-purpose

Branding on Purpose

Building to mean more to consumers

Read the Article
branding-on-purpose

Branding on Purpose

Building to mean more to consumers

roi-by-design

ROI by Design

Building for growth, loyalty, and longevity!

Read the Article
roi-by-design

ROI by Design

Building for growth, loyalty, and longevity!

shaping-the-future-land-of-cleveland

Shaping the Future(LAND) of Cleveland

Helping Cleveland's Premiere Art & Tech Conference Thrive

Read the Article
shaping-the-future-land-of-cleveland

Shaping the Future(LAND) of Cleveland

Helping Cleveland's Premiere Art & Tech Conference Thrive

harmony-the-design-story

Harmony: The Design Story

The sum of our minds and gifts

Read the Article
harmony-the-design-story

Harmony: The Design Story

The sum of our minds and gifts

take-a-breather

Take a Breather

Because sometimes all you really need is to take a break

Read the Article
take-a-breather

Take a Breather

Because sometimes all you really need is to take a break

the-competitive-mindset

The Competitive Mindset

Bringing a competitive gaming mindset to business

Read the Article
the-competitive-mindset

The Competitive Mindset

Bringing a competitive gaming mindset to business

your-design-partner

Your Design Partner

Every brand deserves a partner who understands its rhythm

Read the Article
your-design-partner

Your Design Partner

Every brand deserves a partner who understands its rhythm

anyone-can-be-a-mentor

Anyone Can Be A Mentor!

Using mentorship to springboard others around you.

Read the Article
anyone-can-be-a-mentor

Anyone Can Be A Mentor!

Using mentorship to springboard others around you.

remote-collaboration

Remote Collaboration

How we build within to influence the world through design

Read the Article
remote-collaboration

Remote Collaboration

How we build within to influence the world through design

howl

A Whole New World to Social Commerce

Facilitating collaboration between brands and creators.

Read the Article
howl

A Whole New World to Social Commerce

Facilitating collaboration between brands and creators.

active-listening

Active Listening

Why we listen twice to speak once.

Read the Article
active-listening

Active Listening

Why we listen twice to speak once.

a-love-letter-to-design

A Love Letter to Design

If you think about it, designers are pretty much athletes

Read the Article
a-love-letter-to-design

A Love Letter to Design

If you think about it, designers are pretty much athletes

creative-checkup

Creative+Checkup

Our 2023 Summer Interns built something with the mission of empowering fellow creatives

Read the Article
creative-checkup

Creative+Checkup

Our 2023 Summer Interns built something with the mission of empowering fellow creatives

accessible-design

Accessible Design

It matters more than you know, so do it right!

Read the Article
accessible-design

Accessible Design

It matters more than you know, so do it right!

type-isnt-so-scary

Type Design isn't so Scary

The overwhelmingly beautiful process of creating a custom typeface

Read the Article
type-isnt-so-scary

Type Design isn't so Scary

The overwhelmingly beautiful process of creating a custom typeface

cyxtera2

Connecting Worlds of Data

Reflecting a seamless experience of the marriage between our physical space and digital portal.

Read the Article
cyxtera2

Connecting Worlds of Data

Reflecting a seamless experience of the marriage between our physical space and digital portal.

killer-folios

Killer Folios

Your portfolio is a secret weapon for success...

Read the Article
killer-folios

Killer Folios

Your portfolio is a secret weapon for success...

i-saved-it

I Saved it

The never ending quest for design assets...

Read the Article
i-saved-it

I Saved it

The never ending quest for design assets...

designed-to-lead

Designed to Lead

Why designers belong where critical business decisions are being made...

Read the Article
designed-to-lead

Designed to Lead

Why designers belong where critical business decisions are being made...

bring-peace

Bring Peace

Coming together to intentionally build the future...

Read the Article
bring-peace

Bring Peace

Coming together to intentionally build the future...

creative-fluency

Creative Fluency

How we combine the superpowers of Gen-Zs and millennials

Read the Article
creative-fluency

Creative Fluency

How we combine the superpowers of Gen-Zs and millennials

designers-are-scary-interviewing

Designers are Scary! Interviewing

A recap of the second edition of our amazing event, Designers are Scary!

Read the Article
designers-are-scary-interviewing

Designers are Scary! Interviewing

A recap of the second edition of our amazing event, Designers are Scary!

my-creative-marathon

My Creative Marathon

5 Marathon Training Lessons That Apply to Your Craft

Read the Article
my-creative-marathon

My Creative Marathon

5 Marathon Training Lessons That Apply to Your Craft

vulnerable-brilliance

Vulnerable Brilliance

Cultivating creativity and innovation for the long-term

Read the Article
vulnerable-brilliance

Vulnerable Brilliance

Cultivating creativity and innovation for the long-term

think-mobile

Think Mobile

Designing for the ultimate mobile experience? essential tips to keep in mind.

Read the Article
think-mobile

Think Mobile

Designing for the ultimate mobile experience? essential tips to keep in mind.

design-for-good

Design For Good

Design goes beyond looking good or being trendy...

Read the Article
design-for-good

Design For Good

Design goes beyond looking good or being trendy...

peridot

Explore the Adventurer within

Bridging the gap between the virtual and physical world, one adorable pet at a time.

Read the Article
peridot

Explore the Adventurer within

Bridging the gap between the virtual and physical world, one adorable pet at a time.

just-my-type

Just My Type

How typography helps you pass the vibe check

Read the Article
just-my-type

Just My Type

How typography helps you pass the vibe check

the-value-of-celebrating

The Value of Celebrating

Let’s do some high-fiving once in a while!

Read the Article
the-value-of-celebrating

The Value of Celebrating

Let’s do some high-fiving once in a while!

jbw2023

wunderbread

One week, one brilliant build to help you pass the daily vibe check.

Read the Article
jbw2023

wunderbread

One week, one brilliant build to help you pass the daily vibe check.

das-recap

Designers Are Scary! Recap

We hosted the first event in a free series designed to even the odds.

Read the Article
das-recap

Designers Are Scary! Recap

We hosted the first event in a free series designed to even the odds.

2023-internship

Hiring Summer Interns!

Want to spend your summer with a small studio?

Read the Article
2023-internship

Hiring Summer Interns!

Want to spend your summer with a small studio?

serendipity

Serendipity!

Most celebrated discoveries are happy accidents.

Read the Article
serendipity

Serendipity!

Most celebrated discoveries are happy accidents.

creativity-is-remixing

Creativity is Remixing

Every design is a remix of the past, present, and future.

Read the Article
creativity-is-remixing

Creativity is Remixing

Every design is a remix of the past, present, and future.

chokehold-of-9-5

The Chokehold of the 9-5

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

Read the Article
chokehold-of-9-5

The Chokehold of the 9-5

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

4-lessons-designers-can-learn-from-drag-queens

4 Lessons Designers Can Learn from Drag Queens

Let the music play!

Read the Article
4-lessons-designers-can-learn-from-drag-queens

4 Lessons Designers Can Learn from Drag Queens

Let the music play!

we-are-hiring

We're Hiring!

Hello, is it you we’re looking for?

Read the Article
we-are-hiring

We're Hiring!

Hello, is it you we’re looking for?

side-affects

Which Side Affects You?

An entry point for expanding our understanding of the Roe v. Wade overturn and its impact on fundamental human rights.

Read the Article
side-affects

Which Side Affects You?

An entry point for expanding our understanding of the Roe v. Wade overturn and its impact on fundamental human rights.

pet-department

Meet The Pet Department

Meet the four-legged members of the Pet Department!

Read the Article
pet-department

Meet The Pet Department

Meet the four-legged members of the Pet Department!

squrl

A Tendency for Tangents, Turned Studio Tool

An ever growing discovery engine to hold all the incredible creations we come across as a virtual studio.

Read the Article
squrl

A Tendency for Tangents, Turned Studio Tool

An ever growing discovery engine to hold all the incredible creations we come across as a virtual studio.

studio-office-hours

Studio Office Hours

Taking a look at our daily collaboration sessions

Read the Article
studio-office-hours

Studio Office Hours

Taking a look at our daily collaboration sessions

studio-retreat-2022-bring-peace

Studio Retreat 2022Bring Peace

a small studio’s first retreat! Together we reflected on what it means to bring peace.

Read the Article
studio-retreat-2022-bring-peace

Studio Retreat 2022Bring Peace

a small studio’s first retreat! Together we reflected on what it means to bring peace.

what-goes-into-building-a-design-studio

What Goes Into Building A Design Studio?

What are the key building blocks of a small studio?

Read the Article
what-goes-into-building-a-design-studio

What Goes Into Building A Design Studio?

What are the key building blocks of a small studio?

creatorplus

The Future of Storytelling

A first-of-its-kind movie experience that brings you closer to the creators than ever before.

Read the Article
creatorplus

The Future of Storytelling

A first-of-its-kind movie experience that brings you closer to the creators than ever before.

cyxtera

Taking Data Centers Digital

Making data centers more accessible and actionable for remote managers and digital natives.

Read the Article
cyxtera

Taking Data Centers Digital

Making data centers more accessible and actionable for remote managers and digital natives.

dose

Building DOSE in 5 Days

Amidst one of the largest political awakenings, we paused all normal business operations to build DOSE.

Read the Article
dose

Building DOSE in 5 Days

Amidst one of the largest political awakenings, we paused all normal business operations to build DOSE.

sparkthink

Putting the Spark Back in Consulting

An ecosystem of online tools designed to amplify the process of discovery.

Read the Article
sparkthink

Putting the Spark Back in Consulting

An ecosystem of online tools designed to amplify the process of discovery.

shearshare

Connecting the Beauty Industry

Connecting salon & barbershop owners with all beauty professionals.

Read the Article
shearshare

Connecting the Beauty Industry

Connecting salon & barbershop owners with all beauty professionals.

fizzbuzz

Turning Dreamers Into Doers

An online, after-school, technology program designed to catalyze your growth.

Read the Article
fizzbuzz

Turning Dreamers Into Doers

An online, after-school, technology program designed to catalyze your growth.

our-remote-office-guide

Our Remote Office

We’ve been operating as a Remote studio since 2020 and this is what we've found works.

Read the Article
our-remote-office-guide

Our Remote Office

We’ve been operating as a Remote studio since 2020 and this is what we've found works.

how-about-efficiency-being-about-something-other-than-revenue

A Switch That Flicked

The long story of a small realization.

Read the Article
how-about-efficiency-being-about-something-other-than-revenue

A Switch That Flicked

The long story of a small realization.

what-our-week-looks-like

What Our Weeks Look Like

Always adapting, and always a work in-progress.

Read the Article
what-our-week-looks-like

What Our Weeks Look Like

Always adapting, and always a work in-progress.

my-productivity-playlists

My “Productivity” Playlists

We all have different methods for tapping into our productivity.

Read the Article
my-productivity-playlists

My “Productivity” Playlists

We all have different methods for tapping into our productivity.

why-we-should-always-define-the-words-we-use

Why We Should Always Define the Words We Use

When I first came to a small studio, it felt like I was learning to speak a new language.

Read the Article
why-we-should-always-define-the-words-we-use

Why We Should Always Define the Words We Use

When I first came to a small studio, it felt like I was learning to speak a new language.

how-to-work-with-us

How To Work With Us

Never business as usual.

Read the Article
how-to-work-with-us

How To Work With Us

Never business as usual.

who-is-a-small-studio

Who is a small studio?

We’re a collection of creatives using our gifts to bring peace to people’s lives.

Read the Article
who-is-a-small-studio

Who is a small studio?

We’re a collection of creatives using our gifts to bring peace to people’s lives.

first-impressions

First Impressions

I first came across a small studio the night of December 25th, 2020.

Read the Article
first-impressions

First Impressions

I first came across a small studio the night of December 25th, 2020.

our-newest-sr-designer-jane

Our Newest Sr. Designer, Jane!

Promoting Jane!

Read the Article
our-newest-sr-designer-jane

Our Newest Sr. Designer, Jane!

Promoting Jane!

mari-tautimes

More Than Family Business

A reimagined brand focused on lifting women higher in life and business.

Read the Article
mari-tautimes

More Than Family Business

A reimagined brand focused on lifting women higher in life and business.

welcome-sarah

Welcome Sarah!

We Hired Sarah!

Read the Article
welcome-sarah

Welcome Sarah!

We Hired Sarah!

asu

A Bridge to Sustainable, Impactful Action

Building a digital experience for the passionate team behind sustainability solutions that have a global impact.

Read the Article
asu

A Bridge to Sustainable, Impactful Action

Building a digital experience for the passionate team behind sustainability solutions that have a global impact.

tayne-experiment

Leading By Experiment

The only influencer platform that leads by experiment with extra-ordinary experiences.

Read the Article
tayne-experiment

Leading By Experiment

The only influencer platform that leads by experiment with extra-ordinary experiences.

webflow-virtual-world-tour

Webflow Virtual World Tour

Following the launch of our project DOSE, John gave a talk at the Webflow World Virtual World Tour.

Read the Article
webflow-virtual-world-tour

Webflow Virtual World Tour

Following the launch of our project DOSE, John gave a talk at the Webflow World Virtual World Tour.

dose-showcased-by-webflow

DOSE Showcased by Webflow

Webflow shared the project with their audience of nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.

Read the Article
dose-showcased-by-webflow

DOSE Showcased by Webflow

Webflow shared the project with their audience of nearly 100,000 Twitter followers.

salt-athletic

When Fashion Meets Hygienic Innovation

Bringing fresh style and innovation to the soccer community, with love.

Read the Article
salt-athletic

When Fashion Meets Hygienic Innovation

Bringing fresh style and innovation to the soccer community, with love.

ypos

A Landing Pad for Young Professionals

An engaged community of young professionals deserves a vibrant flag to wave.

Read the Article
ypos

A Landing Pad for Young Professionals

An engaged community of young professionals deserves a vibrant flag to wave.

voyce-threads

Standing for What You Believe In

Start meaningful conversations by showing off what’s on your feet.

Read the Article
voyce-threads

Standing for What You Believe In

Start meaningful conversations by showing off what’s on your feet.

Let’s talk strategy.

Schedule a call with our Identity Architect and see if it makes sense to work together.