an online conversation
about design management

The digital design agency

What does it mean to be a digital design agency?

I notice that many graphic design business are now calling themselves digital design agencies.

Companies in all industries are building online businesses, enabling new customer experiences, experimenting with “big data,” and seeking advantage through a digitally enabled business environment.

They have tried reengineering their practices; they have set up new technology platforms such as content management systems, electronic direct marketing systems, search engine optimisation systems etc.

These studios have reengineered their business without reimagining the business. They need to conceive of their business freshly, in line with the capabilities that digital and business technologies can give them. They need to look at how a reimagined business can connect with their clients in ways that have not been possible before. Then they need to take this reimagining process and show their clients how to do it.

Reimagining your studio means creating many of the conditions of a startup — the sense of freedom, flexibility, and creativity — but at the scale and with the discipline of a mature studio.

It means taking a customer-centric approach to everything your studio does — including innovation, user experience design, marketing, promotions, sales, operations, and client service.

One tool, for a design studio wanting to make this shift, is client empathy mapping. This is done as part of developing an understanding of client segments.

The empathy map helps you understand exactly what it is the client wants (really wants - not just what they say they want), what it is that pains them in getting their jobs done and what they will gain by you doing the job for them.

The empathy map is a an essential part of preparing a design business model because it builds the client segments and client relationship sections.

Interested in learning more about developing a design business model canvas? Check out The business of design, a publication by the Design Business Council that shows how to develop a design studio business model canvas.