an online conversation
about design management

Don’t expand your business, expand your thinking.

When times are tough, the first thought of many designers is to find more business, but that may not necessarily be the right thinking… what we need to do is bring in more income, not necessarily more work.

Here’s two examples of how others did it:

Start an aligned business.

When Liana Lucca-Pope was unable to work last year, income for her business Hello Idea stalled. Rather than panic and grab a short-term solution, Liana devised a longer-term solution.

The result is a new business – a shared office space for creatives called the Idea Collective. Above is a pic of part of the space.

The benefits are two fold.

Liana had spent the past ten years working from home, and was ready for a change. Setting up the shared space was primarily about developing a continual income stream but it came with the added benefit of being able to choose like-minded people to fill the space.

Liana now works within a network of creative people including a content strategist and writer, a photographer and a web designer. It’s early days but she has already successfully collaborated on one project. Liana has learnt new skills and her client has benefited from additional expertise.

“It means that I’m not so worried about what happens if I need to take some time for my family or because I need a break. I don’t have anyone paying me for sick days or holiday – if I take some time off work, the rent and utilities still have to be paid”.

Or, start an unaligned business

David Ansett, co-owner and founder of Branding Agency Truly Deeply (, is well known for his skill in design and brand strategy. What he’s not as well known for is as an owner of a pasta bar concept with a one year old store in Clarendon Street, just around the corner from his studio and a second store opening in Malvern next month.

After working with many business start-ups David could identify a good idea when it walked in the door – a model for an Italian street food business – and rather than help market to investors, he became an investor himself.

It’s another win:win.

“The best branding professionals are those who have a fascination with business and business models. Having worked for clients in the category such as Spudbar, Nut Shack, Ayomo and The Crepe Shoppe, I felt I had enough experience to add real value to a food retail concept. The result has been a complete re-energizing as the venture has fed my passion for food, for creating businesses and for branding. Nothing I love more than meeting a prospective client at Etto to show them the tangible outcome of our process”.

David now has a second income stream, as well as ‘walking the talk’. When he advises a small business about strategy, he can talk from the viewpoint of a retail owner, as well as a designer.

These are two great examples of design studio owners building sustainability into their business by sharing the overheads load, but it should also be acknowledged that it doesn’t come without risk.

Both Liana’s space and David’s pasta bar could have remained empty – it’s from meticulous planning and knowledge of the market that both have succeeded and for that they should be heartily congratulated.

Of course, Greg and I have done a similar thing with writing – our first book The business of design was released last year and we’re working on the next. Greg mentors studios through the Design Business Council, and he’s released a series of workshops.