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6 tips for running a successful design studio

Running a studio can be tough. There's business cards to think about, the best office chair to buy and employees such as art directors to think about. 

Here, leading designers and illustrators revealed the biggest lessons they've learned, and how these have helped them run their winning design studios or practices. 

01. Give designers space to hone ideas

Lippincott worked with Bain Capital to create a number of assets

Lippincott worked with Bain Capital to create a number of assets

"It takes a village to execute a complex, global design project, but you can't underestimate the importance of the individual in that process," says Lippincott's Heather Stern.

It takes one person to have the idea, but many people to execute it. I've learned how to protect an individual's idea and craft within the demands of a global design project."

It's my job to give designers the space they need to hone their ideas. We're successful when I'm able to respect that brilliance and mobilise a team to help bring it to life."

02. Making the client happy isn't enough

"The biggest lesson I've learned so far is that making the client happy isn't enough," advises Sagi Haviv, partner and designer at iconic firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

"At the end of the day, you, the designer, must be proud of the result, and the way to achieve that is to show the client only those options that you believe in wholeheartedly.

03. Empower people

Wolff Olins' work for media brand USA TODAY

Wolff Olins' work for media brand USA TODAY

Ownership of the work and open communication is key, says Wolff Olins design director Dan Greene.

"By making people feel valued through their contribution and giving them the platform to have input into the direction of a project, it can give team members the extra 10 per cent they need to turn a job from good to great."

04. Respect everyone

"Treat people like humans and with very little hierarchy," says Snask's Fredrik Öst. "Make sure that everyone is a superstar and that everyone has a life beside their job."

05. Don't back down with tricky clients

Sarah Mazzetti created this giant wood "thing" for TICTIG exhibition at Casa Testori

Sarah Mazzetti created this giant wood "thing" for TICTIG exhibition at Casa Testori

"Be firm and clear about the fact that there's a reason why you want things to be done in a certain way," advises illustrator Sarah Mazzetti.

06. Treat every project like it'll be your best

"One of the most important lessons I've learned? To treat every new project as if it'll be the best of my career," says Northern Ireland-based graphic designer and writer David Airey.

"It doesn't matter who the client is, or what industry I'm designing for, I'm the one responsible for just how good, how interesting, how successful the result is."

This was originally published in Computer Arts magazine, the world's best-selling design magazine. Subscribe now to make sure you don't miss future issues.

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Julia Sagar

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.