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Posts Tagged with “Business”

An Email About The Design Industry

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.29.31 am


I wrote this to a friend this morning and wanted to share it because I hear these topics talked about all the time. The text from the screenshot above and ‘*’ on ‘Understanding’ is below.


Hard to know what roles they are thinking about filling, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their were jobs in the industry that weren’t being filled by the output of the education system here. The gap between industry and education is every widening.
I believe that we are at a really unique time in the design (specifically graphic) industries history.
Demand to be a designer and ‘work from home‘ + abundance of courses teaching design + access to design hardware and software +wider community understanding* (thanks Steve & Apple)  = Over supply of designers, many under qualified.
Key points that concern me about the Australian design industry:
1. Most People Speak Different Languages
(Generally speaking) Design and business are still talking to each other in different languages. Firms like IDEO, Frog & Tank don’t make this mistake. This is where value is miss-understood. Design effectiveness isn’t measured. That’s insane.
2. Digital Design & Education
(At a graphic design level) Digital design is extremely underrepresented in the curriculum’s of most education providers.
3Design & Business Education
The number of students that are graduating without adequate business skills is remarkable. Our industry is unique because even before you start your formal training you can begin freelancing or running your own business. Unlike law or medicine you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a practicing graphic designer. You also don’t need to complete any work experience. This means we have lots of students graduating and starting their own ‘Motherbird’ studio without any idea of how to charge clients or manage projects or understand billable hours.
I’m not convinced that forcing students to complete industry practice is the right way to go (although it would help). I’d rather see a much larger investment in educating our students about running a business and helping them understand that we are in a service industry. The market is impartial. It doesn’t care if we can’t manage our own time.


*Understanding: this is still relatively low. People look at Apple products and launch events and understand that design is somehow linked to increase value, but I’m not convinced that they understand why or when to use design.

Post 15: 4 Questions

There are four questions that I think any one who runs a business needs to be able to answer:

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. What problem(s) are you solving for them?
  3. How are you solving the problem(s)?
  4. Why these customers and this problem(s)?


Arguably the 4th question is the most important, but theres another whole post in that.

With my latest work on this new product, I’m still going through the processes to figure out the clear answers to all of these.

At my other ventures, Positive Posters & Sex, Drugs & Helvetica, we have very clear answers to these questions. I’m not at that point yet with my recent work.

Photo 3-03-2014 10 15 12 am


This sketch roughly shows where I think I am at with each of the questions.

To move the first 3 questions along more quickly, I’ll be interviewing potential customers this week to learn more about their professional lives, their pain points and hopefully narrow in on some solutions.

Post 10: Carlos, Kate & Seb?

SUBTITLE: Defining customer segments

All great products/services solve a problem for a customer. You’re success will normally relate to how well you solve the problem, how early you were to the game etc.

As I spend time developing ideas around professional networks, I’m keeping in mind the people that I’m solving problems for.

In an email I sent yesterday I said, “…it could be like LinkedIn for the design vertical.”  In a similar way Doximity is a professional network for U.S. Physicians.

[What is a vertical? 1:32min explanation]

The problem I’m having is I can feel a common set of pain points that exist for customers who work within the ‘design/creative’ vertical, but they are very hard to define.


Insert Carlos, Kate & Seb.

Carlos and Kate are two friends I know who fit well inside the design vertical. Both are practising designers with similar clients and business models.

Seb works at The Lonely Planet (probably has the best job in the world). He’s not a designer, but I can’t help but include him in my research because I’m sure he shares some problems in common with Carlos and Kate even though he comes from a (slightly) different vertical.


If I add in my copywriting friends Willow&Blake, who also belong to a mini vertical, we get a more diverse ecosystem with potentially more common pain points.

Up until this point, I’ve been building something mainly for Vertical 1, bleeding into PP3. But my concern is that these areas alone are too small to build a business around. (Dribbble, who sit in Vertical 1, have 460,000 users, Dec 2013).


My feeling is that the real opportunity lies in creating a product that solves pain points that are shared between the mini verticals or in PP4.

Trying to define these however is difficult.

Here are some similarities that the verticals share, but I’m not at a point yet when I can translate them into shred pain points and thus develop specific solutions (or a product).

  • Work would be defined as ‘creative’
  • Don’t wear suits to work
  • Don’t work regular 9-5 hours
  • Can and do work remotely if need be
  • Their work is far more diverse than what they studied
  • Add lots of value to their customers, but hard to quantify
  • Many freelancers in the vertical
  • Limited business knowledge due to failing education systems

It’s possible that what is happening here is that the difficultly I’m encountering defining common pain points between mini verticals is because the customers actually have a hard time defining themselves in a professional context. Are you just a graphic designer, or do you also offer social media and copy writing services and film editing and development?

Thanks to online training, YouTube and services like Freelancer, people in the ‘design & creative’ vertical offer all sorts of services and often more than just one or two. Does this mean the need/want their own network to cater for this?

The other option of course is that the pain points that are shared between verticals are too murky or aren’t strong enough or clearly defined enough to build a product around and I might be better to just look at a more well defined vertical like Graphic Design.

(This is the 10th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)