I just finished reading this book called The Business of Design: Balancing Creativity and Profitability by Keith Granet. I absolutely loved it! And it couldn't have come at a better time in my life, as I am about to embark on some new ventures of my own. I will definitely be applying some of Keith's suggestions! Perhaps with the right preparation and some more success, I may be lucky enough one day to hire Keith to help me with my licensing and product developments.
In the 17 years I've been in the design industry, I've never read a book that so clearly and accessibly breaks down the fundamentals of running a successful design business. Keith draws on his wealth of experience from working with many successful designers and design firms. He also brings to the table the wisdom, tips and tricks he has learned over the years . His book is a summation of the sort of education you can't get in school; it's the stuff you can only learn on the job.
The Business of Design is a great book because it has something for everyone. Whether you are a student of design, just starting out or a seasoned designer like myself, you will learn something from this book about running a successful business and how to help your business make money.
Let's face it, designers are creative people. And like most creative types, we often think about our projects from an artistic perspective and forget that the business aspects are just as important as creating beautiful designs for your client.
Keith knows this and he also knows that as a result, a lot of designers end up short-changing themselves or getting overwhelmed with “annual operating budgets” and “managing profitability.” But he also knows that when designers who run our own businesses have effective management skills and efficient management systems, we can free up our brainpower to focus on the artistic side of the job that we love so much.
That's why chapter two – “Business and Financial Management” – was my favorite. This chapter really makes us designers think about things we should think about more frequently, instead of just once a year with our tax accountants.
Keith offers many suggestions and key tips for success, but perhaps my favorite reminder is that we have the power to say “No.” It's hard to remember that not only can you say no to projects, but that there are certain times when you should say no. It's a realization that comes with time for designers, but once you get to a point in your career where you understand that, it's a wonderful thing. At first, it is hard to say no to projects. You worry that if you say no to this project, you not get another one. But remember that every project you take means another project you will have to pass up, so you can wait for the right ones.
Keith suggests that you listen to your gut. He gives you six easy questions to ask yourself when considering a new client:
- Do I like the client?
- Will this project advance my goals for the firm?
- Can I work with the client?
- Does the client appreciate my expertise?
- Does the client have the proper budget to build this project?
- Are all the members of the team people I can and want to work with?
- Have they offered me a glass of water?
I love the last question! I know there's 7 questions, did I mention he's quite witty too. Keith says it's really important to notice this: “The truth is that if a client doesn’t offer you a glass of water, or anything for that matter, that client probably doesn’t care about you. This may seem harsh, but it’s true. The client needs to treat you right for any project to be successful.”
I have definitely applied the power to say no myself and I can vouch for it. Most clients (the good ones) see the value and are willing to wait for a good designer.
What's more is that Keith's style is personable and engaging. The book is full of wisdom and anecdotes told by a real person who has learned – sometimes, the hard way – how to make art and business live side by side without sacrificing one for the other. Keith is as a brilliant business man and you should not miss the opportunity to pick up this enlightening book!