an online conversation
about design management

Working from Paris :)

May 1 was the start of a social experiment. I've packed up my studio and moved to Paris for a month. I want to see how easy it is to combine a holiday with working.

Like all small businesses, scheduling holidays has always been difficult. Particularly difficult when Greg and I were in the same business because it meant middle management were taking responsibility for two positions rather than one.

Plan A was to take a maximum of two weeks leave at any one time - it seemed the longest workable time to leave the studio. Even then holi-days were interspersed with holiday-nights on email. It was workable - some design managers were up to the task more than others - but we didn't really get to switch off completely.

Plan B was give our team the days between Christmas and New Year as a bonus and close the studio from late December through to early January. That meant that with weekends and public holidays, everyone got at around 10 days leave. Holidays were either in Perth with Greg's family (average 34 degrees) or in the Northern Hemisphere (our most famous was Christmas in New York during the polar vortex - average temperature -10 degrees)

That was great, but we're a bit tired of touring the northern hemisphere during winter. We've seen London when it's sunny and we've seen it when it's grey and it's heaps better when it's sunny. Ditto Paris and I don't need to trudge through the sludge of melting snow in New York again. Been there done that as they say.

Now, as a micro-business I work with a variety of really talented freelancers but  there are still some projects I want to do and clients that I prefer to work with.

Hence the social-experiment. Why not combine a holiday with work? May is traditionally my leanest month as budgets run dry with many of my clients, and Greg can continue mentoring 'as normal' via Skype with his interstate (and this month international) clients. Plus his book The Business of Design and the E-courses are selling well in the background.

The main reason we chose Paris is for Greg to meet with some design integration management gurus. The reason for a month is it will give us enough time to have a holiday as well as work but not too long away from my aging mother.

So, I've got my laptop, archive disks and a nifty piece of software called Parallels that hooks me into my desktop computer in Melbourne. The dining room table of our apartment in the Marais district of Paris is looking like home.

My clients are all onboard - most think it's a hoot. They're sending emails that begin with bonjour and end in au revoir. They know I'm not available to physically meet with them but with email, skype, free international calls, texting and a few hours of business hours overlap each day, I'm feeling optimistic

And that's good because as I was packing my hard drives in Melbourne, my email pinged. It was a Sydney client (unannounced) delivering the brief and copy for a suite of materials to launch a new insurance product. It's a big project - in fact with the design, copywriting and artwork, it will single-handedly pay for my monthly overheads.

 Wish me luck.

Carol Mackay

Carol is co-founder of Mackay Branson, a design studio currently celebrating 30 years in business.
Her expertise is in the use of design to package complex content into bite-sized chunks of information that is easy to understand and digest. She does that with clients in the corporate, cultural, government and not for profit sectors. More at