21 tips for starting your own design studio

21 tips for starting your own design studio


Adam Jenns Founder and managing director Mainframe
Logic and restraint are not always your best friends: they can lead to piecemeal decisions and compromise. “If you don’t take risks, you’ll stay a one-man band forever,” says Adam Jenns. “I rented a big studio very early on in Mainframe’s life, and it seemed to fill itself.”


Glenn Garriock Creative director at Atelier 1A Co-founder of FormFiftyFive
Working alone isn’t ideal. “Simply the process of explaining an idea to someone else helps me figure out if it makes sense or not,” says Glenn Garriock. However, you don’t have to be isolated even if you are physically alone: “With a little help from modern technology you can share ideas and thoughts with colleagues and friends, regardless of where you are.”


Josie Harold Managing director Dirty Design
“Think carefully about what you want from your office space,” warns Josie Harold. “The quirky older building that feels really individual and is cheaper than more traditional office space might seem perfect, but trust me, with no double-glazing the heating bills won’t be. And if you buy flatpack desks from IKEA, plan in three days to build them.”


Aurelia Lange Founder Aurelia Lange
Talking about heating bills, illustrator and designer Aurelia Lange has some practical advice: “Setting up in the summer will give you a head start,” she laughs. Also, research all your expenses thoroughly – public liability, insurance, rates and such: “Business Link is a great resource for advice on this.”


Russell Townsend Managing director Clusta
These days the specs on mid-level machines are generally fine for all but the most demanding of design applications. “So try and make sure that you are very sensible about software and, in particular, hardware,” says managing director at Clusta, Russell Townsend. “Assess what you really need. Video and moving images are far more demanding than design for print.”


Glenn Garriock Creative director at Atelier 1A Co-founder of FormFiftyFive
Without a decent system to help you find older files – real as well as digital – you are simply increasing your workload. Glenn Garriock’s big on filing systems for exactly this reason: “Having a methodical filing system will spare you a lot of rummaging around,” he reasons. “You never know when one of your older files or documents could come in handy to sort out a misunderstanding, or help you with your final billing.”


Aurelia Lange Founder Aurelia Lange
Location is king, ask any estate agent. So check out the area you’re thinking of setting up in thoroughly. “How accessible are the nearest supply shops? What about banks and nice pubs to meet clients? Is there parking?” asks Aurelia Lange. And finally, how accessible are your premises? Is it 24/7? If not, how will you manage all those late nights?


Glenn Garriock Creative director at Atelier 1A Co-founder of FormFiftyFive
“Back everything up,” advises Glenn Garriock. This doesn’t have to be expensive – you can pick up a one-terrabyte external hard drive for less then £100 these days, on which you can create a bootable carbon copy of your main hard drive. “Couple this with an online back-up service, such as Backblaze or CrashPlan, and you should be sorted.”


Aurelia Lange Founder Aurelia Lange
You’ll be spending quite a bit of time in your studio, so make it your own. “You should create an environment that you want to spend time in,” says Aurelia Lange. “Invest in some good speakers, a comfortable chair, a kettle and some chocolate biscuits.”


Daniel Baer Founder Studio Baer
Keep your website up to date. “Our site is updated each quarter with new projects,” says Daniel Baer. “We adapt the studio portfolio for every client meeting in order to focus on specific areas of interest.” If you’re small, you’re nimble. Make the most of that.


Bob Gray Design director Red&Grey Design
Searching the internet for studio space might have the advantage of speed, but you won’t be getting there via the internet superhighway. It’s best to get out and walk around until you find somewhere you like. “This is a much better way to get a feel for an area, and you can also find some hidden gems that don’t appear on larger estate agent websites,” says Bob Gray.]

Want to be your own boss? Find more advice in our Design Studio Handbook, available now.

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