an online conversation
about design management

Selling design value

Design business model canvas

This five hour face-to-face workshop shows studio owners and managers how to develop a design business model canvas.

The workshop is followed by mentoring sessions that help you achieve your goals.

This thinking is innovative and creative. We especially value Greg’s understanding of the design industry in Australia.
Maryann Howley - Tangelo



The Designing demand five hour face-to-face workshop shows studio owners and managers how to build a strategy from their strengths

The workshop is followed by mentoring sessions that help you achieve your goals.

Greg’s workshop offered insights into my business that led to greater strategic focus and a better understanding of client needs.

Andy Homan - Process Creative

Identify your strengths and weaknesses


This five hour face-to-face workshop shows studio owners and managers how to develop a design value proposition to sell design value.

The workshop is followed by mentoring sessions that help you achieve your goals.

Greg has a terrific understanding of running a design business and has developed a process which allows an agency to target and evolve it’s business to better meet client needs.

Mark McNamara - Echo design

From business model to strategy

Developing a strategy for new business often involves taking a step back and defining exactly what your business is, and is not.

When we started out we wrote a business plan to describe what the business will do. It was about 30 pages and it set out our studios’ operational and financial goals for the future and showed how we thought we would meet them.

Like us, you probably wrote your business plan because a business advisor told you that’s what you had to do, or a bank manager wanted it when you were trying to set up an overdraft.

They also told you to revisit it every 12 months to see how you were tracking with your financial and operational goals. The problem with this was that every time we revised the plan we had to wait 6 or 12 months to see if it was working.

Then about three years ago we discovered a different approach that’s helped us develop the business we wanted – a business model canvas.

A business model is a different way of thinking about your business and where you want it to go. A design business model describes how it creates, delivers, and captures economic or social value for clients. The process of business model design is part of business strategy. It can be a quick and dirty exercise that helps you think through your business.

Business models are more likely to take the form of a one–page visual presentation and is produced before a business plan. The business model is best produced quickly, then rapidly tested with clients and then reconfigured. The model you choose is then detailed in your business plan.

One of the major proponents of the business model canvas is Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and originator of the lean start-up concept.

In a May 2013 article for Harvard Business Review, Steve Blank explains that launching any new business has always been a hit or miss proposition. He quotes research by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Gosh which shows that 75% of all start-ups fail. Blank believes the answer is in the “lean start-up”.

He compares the business model approach to a traditional business plan approach. As he says: the “lean start-up”, favours experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up-front” development.

According to Blank, the business model is just a hunch or hypothesis (and so is the business plan). The difference is that the business model can be prepared in a few hours. Blank believes that as a business owner you rapidly develop a business model and then “get out of the building” to test it with clients.

The Key Activities section in the canvas sets out the strategies you need to get new business. Using this and the Design value proposition you develop you can identify and target the type of work you want to do.

As designers we are in a creative and entrepreneurial business. The industry is rapidly changing and shifting. This means there needs to be constant revision of our operations. So to begin planning you need a business model that recognises this change and equips you to stay in front of the change.

It also helps you stay in front of your competitors.

We revised the business model canvas and developed the DESIGN BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS and used it to reposition our studio and also for developing projects such as dmzine.

We also used it to develop The business of design a publication that shows how to use the design business model canvas to start up a studio or review an existing design studio.

I have also used the Design business model canvas with more that 75 designers as part of workshops and mentoring. Based on this I have produced a five hour workshop that shows how to use the design business model canvas.

In developing a design business model canvas the core element is the design value proposition. This essentially sets out what it is that your studio does to offer a unique service that is valued by a client.

The design value proposition is explained in The business of design and is taken to a deeper level in The design value proposition E-course.


Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed a series of business tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.