Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video The new designer-entrepreneur, part of Running a Design Business: Starting Small.
Back in 2011, design and business writer, Bruce Nussbaum, predicted that designers are merging their ways of thinking with startup culture. And will be, in his words, the new drivers of American entrepreneurialism. As the years have gone by, Bruce's prediction has proven true. There are a number of factors that have enabled this trend. Easy access to complex technology along with the accelerated internet marketplace is created a great environment for designers to produce and distribute their own products and services. Internet innovations, such as YouTube, flickr, tumblr., and vimeo were all started by entrepreneurs with design degrees or backgrounds. It's an incredible mash up of creativity and capitalism. I see that our industry is in the middle of a transition from creating traditional marketing communications to making content, developing products. And inventing new ways to convey messages.
Influential factors in this trend are economic. Recent design school graduates are having a harder time getting steady jobs in the first years of their careers. They're often saddled with excessive educational debts. Instead of trying to earn income the traditional way by working for established design firms, they're being resourceful in their use of technology and design thinking. They're doing this by creating products. Everything from graphic heavy t-shirt lines, to handbags, to mobile apps. And technology innovations in small run manufacturing have really changed the landscape.
Making and selling stuff is easy, fast and affordable. Designers can sell their products independently or through established companies. Successful entrepreneurs use their social media savvy to promote and sell their products. They're collaborating with others in their online communities to support each other's ventures. Through posts, images and stories, spreading around communities, people start to invest their time. And possibly money, to support them. When capital is needed to start a new venture or expand a business, younger designers can't qualify for loans, so they use crowd-sourced funding, like Kickstarter.
When they need guidance and mentorship, they turn to global online sources that hold local events. Take a look at what's happening with a movement called Startup Weekend. Design school teaches us a number of things that prepare us for this new environment, like our ability to conceptualize, prototype, and test. We can create visually appealing branding and marketing programs for our products, and master new technology very quickly. But what we don't have is a lot of business or legal know how. If you're going to go down this road, you're going to need to know a lot more about intellectual property. Without that knowledge, your idea could be stolen or you could steal someone else's.
To get started, you'll need to understand some basic legal tools, like copyrights, licensing agreements, fair use, trademarks, and design patents. Familiarize yourself, then consult with an attorney to advise you regarding your specific needs, to make sure everything's covered. Design entrepreneurship, especially developing your own branded products, is an exciting path to pursue. It's something you can do in addition to having your own studio where you do traditional design for clients.
Doing both offers great creative possibilities.
- Naming and structuring your business
- Keeping records
- Cultivating business relationships
- Hiring employees and subcontractors
- Creating schedules and managing deadlines
- Understanding industry trends
- Avoiding the pitfalls of spec work
- Promoting your business through social media