Because I am not only interested in improving my design skills but also in learning about the structure and set up of a design business, I read the book The Business of Graphic Design by Ed Gold. This book was very different from the first one that I read because the first one focused on the history and technical aspects of design, whereas this one focused on the business aspects of design.
Although this book was published in 1983 and many of the cost estimates for starting a business and supplies lists are out dates, the principles are still relevant. The book is very clearly written and easy to follow. Gold covers a wide variety of useful information and tips for designers looking to start their own firms including advice on when to know if you are ready, how to form leases and contracts, how to manage money and how to work with your employees or partners. Gold includes examples and testimonies from the success stories of many well known designers and design firms.
The question “when should you begin thinking about starting your own graphic design business?” is thoroughly explored throughout the book. One answer, from Bob Ryster (a famous designer), that really stuck out to me was, “The first day you show up to work at your first design job”. Gold and Ryster both stress the importance of gaining experience in the design world and watching others run the business before starting your own. They encourage young designers to not only learn about design aesthetic while working for others but also learn about how a business is run. This piece of advice lead me to wonder about Paige’s career before founding Veneer. Where did she go to college? Was her first degree in graphic design or art or something else? Where else has she worked? How long ago did she found Veneer? I would really like to ask her these questions but she is always very busy and I do not want to disrupt her. I do plan to ask the employees at Veneer for advice on which design college to attend once I have received all of my acceptances and rejections. It will be interesting to get the perspective of people in the design field who have already gone through the college and the search for their first job after college. Maybe this conversation about continuing my education will lead into a conversation about employment in the design industry, the history of Veneer and starting a design firm.
Gold also explores different structures for design firms and their pros and cons. He lists the options as the sole proprietor, partnerships, corporations and subchapter corporations. I found it interesting to learn that in proprietor and partnership businesses, individuals are not considered separate from their business so if an individual is in debt, their business is also in debt but in corporations, if an employee at a corporation is in debt it will not affect the stability of the corporation. Veneer is a corporation or a subchapter corporation (I’m not sure which) because they have a CEO (Paige) and other employees who work for her as opposed to them all being equal partners or just a one man show. Although I have not had much exposure to design firms that are partnerships and many of the most famous firms are partnerships (such as Pentagram), it seems most reasonable to me to start a firm as a corporation. It seems like having a hierarchy would make individual responsibilities more clear and encourage team work, where as in a partnership it might be less clear who was responsible for what work or each partner would take on his/her own projects and the partners would not work as a team.
Throughout the book, the importance of running an organized and efficient business is stressed. Gold really pushes the concept that no matter how talented you are as a designer or how good your ideas are, your design firm will not succeed unless you pay attention to the business aspect and make smart business decisions. I would like to start my own design firm one day but, only after I have had much experience working for others and learning about the business first hand.
On Monday and Thursday at Veneer I continued to help research definitions, available and taken domain names and already used trademarks for the list and list and list of names that Paige and the client came up with. Finding a name for a new business is harder than you would think! Here is an example of the information needed for each name:
Can you believe how many companies already exist with this name! Since it is near impossible to find a name that has never been used, the important part is to find a name that is not already used in the industry or a similar industry. Because this company is in the education industry, it is important to find a name that is not used for any other education companies.
I also worked more on the shirt design at home. Here are pictures of the backs and fronts of the top 3 designs and up close of the 2015 lettering.
Paige just emailed me critiques for these designs! I am going to make the changes and work more on the Wishers and Dreams site this weekend and then write about it next week.