Is design education helping build design businesses?
I have just completed workshops and mentoring in Adelaide and Perth where I met with a number of very interesting design business owners and employees.
The overall message I have discussed with all these is the need to sell design value rather than design services. The most common response is; how do I get clients to understand that I offer more than the expected design services like design concepts, artwork etc?
My explanation is that designers need to talk about business performance not design outcomes; don’t sell website, sell increased sales. I explain you do this by talking about business strategy using business terminology.
This invariably leads to the question; where can I learn about business strategy and the language I need to talk with clients.
I recently had this conversation with Dave (not his real name), a Perth based design studio owner with six designers. We had just finished a mentoring session on optimising his pricing and making sure he could do a cost benefit analysis on all of his marketing.
Dave: So where can I get all this information in a course?
GB: The RMIT Design Futures masters program offers it. I was lucky enough to be on the industry panel that advised on the structure and content of this course so I know it well and can recommend it.
Dave: You have banged on about cost benefit analysis, so what's the cost of this course and what can I get in return?
GB: Typically a masters course is about $30,000 over two years and based on your profit margin you will need to generate an additional $300,000 in revenue over two years to pay for it.
Dave: What about the time I put into the course?
GB: Based on your hourly charge out rate you would need to generate an additional $800,000 of revenue to cover the hours that are non-billable because of the course work. That means over two years you need an additional $1,100,000 of revenue to just cover the business cost of the course.
Dave pointed out that there were intangible benefits from the course; the opportunity to discuss business issues with his peers and the academic rigour that would force him to think about where he was at and where he was going.
I could not argue with this because it is very true and it’s a definite advantage for Dave and his business.
Dave: So what is the alternative?
GB: You could look at my Design Business School.
Dave: What’s the Design Business School?
GB: The Design Business School was created because the role of design is changing, and the new breed of sustainable design businesses has to contribute to governments, institutions, nonprofits and enterprises at the top level of strategy and planning.
I explained that:
A central part of the Design Business Council, Australia's leading design business professional development organisation, the Design Business School is committed to training the next generation of design business owners, disrupters, and leaders. By using innovative new design-in-business tools, it's developing agencies that can influence design led businesses and business innovators.
Dave: So how does it work?
GB: Understanding the need for new approaches and solutions, I work side-by-side with design studio business owners in prototyping and implementing strategic design solutions for all types of clients. The main goal of the DBS is to equip design studio owners with the necessary tools, knowledge and approaches to confidently enter into a clients' business at the strategic level.
Dave: How's it different from university courses?
GB: It’s not an accredited course which means there’s no bureaucracy, no fee support and no HECS debt. The payoff for you is not an accreditation issued by a university, it’s improved business performance and more high end design-in-business strategy.
Your whole studio can enrol or you can take the course alone, all for the same fee.
Assessment is simple. You have to show that you’ve improved the performance of your studio or gained new business to a value greater than your commitment of time and money. In short the course becomes a fee generator.
It’s broken into four eight week terms. The work can be done during, or out of, work hours. The term length of eight weeks is not mandatory; if you hit a snag with extra work coming in, you simply put it on hold until you can get back to it.
You do the course online with constant mentoring from me. I bring the experience of hundreds of your peers that I have mentored. This makes sure the course is shaped to your needs with support that is not available anywhere else in Australia.
Before and after each term we have a one-on-one meeting to set the parameters and measure the results.
Dave is discussing the Design Business School with his designers.
Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.
Greg has developed a series of business tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.