What Goes Into Building A Design Studio?
What are the key building blocks of a small studio?
At a small studio, we utilize several essential departments and processes to help with the everyday ebb and flow of our work. We rely on these building blocks to deliver on our clients' vision and build lasting relationships. These areas all work together and support each other so that we’re able to bring peace to our clients and creatives.
Marketing is a huge part of how a studio presents itself, both internally and externally. For a small studio, we use marketing as an opportunity for credibility and transparency. Our Identity-Driven Design (IDD) approach allows us to intentionally create content that reflects the work of the studio as well as the studio’s mission. Establishing clear strategies with measurable goals is a great way to reach one’s audience.
At a small studio, we prioritize trust over conversion. This means we primarily share content through established social media platforms or our website, rather than through external marketing campaigns. We want to gain trust from our audiences, by maintaining consistency and a sense of community. For us, this has meant using a hub-style method, always redirecting our audience back to our website.
We believe the best way to develop our business is through trust and connection. The studio’s four main processes of business development are maintaining overhead, identifying opportunities (outbound), vetting (inbound), and internal planning. Connection is a huge motivator for us and is the reason why we lead our business primarily on a referral basis. We believe our community is one of our greatest assets.
Business development is fuelled by our belief in prioritizing people over profit. We operate on a 1:1 ratio; this makes sure that the number of projects is equal to the number of creatives and that each project receives the full attention it deserves. Furthermore, we aspire to create an opportunities pipeline through our referral process; this allows us to onboard new clients that share our studio values at a rate that meets our studio goals.
The design department delivers distinct products and experiences for our clients with the help of Identity-Driven Design. We always start with the Identity Architecture Workshop to gain a wider and deeper insight into the wants and needs of our clients. This in-depth process allows not only the creatives, but also our clients, time to reflect on who/what they are and who/what they want to become. With this invaluable insight, we can create authentic brands and completely personalized products.
After onboarding is complete, the design team adopts full accountability for a project as well as meetings with the client. Their responsibilities span from need identification to design solution, to fully functional products and regular client relationship management. Always keeping Identity-Driven Design in mind, our creative decisions are directly tied to the insights we gained through the Identity Architecture workshop.
Like Identity-Driven Design, Humans was developed to empower creatives and celebrate their individual and collective goals as well as their passions. The Humans department of the studio involves HR procedures within a studio-designed model. Humans incorporates recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and offboarding, as well as creating space for our team members to grow and excel. One important facet of Humans is ensuring all developmental milestones are completed as per a project’s timeline.
As an important tenant of our studio is maintaining transparency, we utilize a career development framework, which allows us to deliberately track our titles, responsibilities, growth, and salary. As we also believe authenticity is crucial in keeping a healthy and happy studio, we encourage our team members to track their progress and chart a map for their future and the career development framework is key in this endeavor.
At a small studio, Operations encompasses all of our administrative processes. This includes business management, finances, and studio standards. Our operating system functions largely by keeping our principles, people, earnings, and internal administration in consideration. Essentially, Operations is the department that keeps everything running smoothly, ensuring it’s never business as usual.
At a small studio, we utilize a variety of tools that help our operations run efficiently. Each tool has a unique function and many of the tools can be used across different departments. We’re excited to share our toolbox in our next article, hopefully bringing peace to other creative’s lives.
"Studio Ops is about creating time for the team. It should take a little and give a LOT. When it comes to change, nothing should be excluded from consideration. Just try it out! MVP style."
Director of Operations at a small studio