How to Run a Graphic Design Office

by Ian Linton

Graphic design is a business as well as a creative discipline. To run a graphic design office, you must focus on the basic elements of any successful business: managing people, controlling finances, marketing your services and maximizing productivity and efficiency. Those disciplines apply whether you're managing a commercial graphic design studio or running a graphic design office within a company.

Hire good creative people. Clients judge you by the standard of work you produce. In graphic design, that means creating designs that communicate information clearly and persuade people to take action. Choose designers with the skills and experience to deliver the services your clients need. You may offer a broad range of design services or specialize in graphic design for publications or three-dimensional design for packaging. Hire the right number of full-time designers to meet your estimated workload and supplement your resources with freelance staff to handle any temporary overloads.

Plan the workflow in the studio to ensure that projects meet their deadlines. Invest in project management software to plan complex or large-scale projects, such as corporate identity programs. Prepare schedules for designers and clients so that all employees understand their commitments and priorities. Hold regular progress meetings to ensure that projects remain on track. Aim to complete projects efficiently without incurring overtime costs or penalties for late delivery.

Market your services to maintain a flow of revenue and build your business. Create a portfolio of work that demonstrates the range of services you offer and the quality of your creative work. Put the portfolio on your website and include links to the portfolio pages in your e-mails and other marketing communications. Aim to build close working relationships with your clients so that you can maintain their loyalty and increase levels of repeat business. For internal design offices, aim to demonstrate the importance of design services to the company’s success. Work with senior executives and departmental heads to ensure that they understand the value and contribution of design.

Establish a level of charges for your work that enables you to compete effectively for jobs and deliver a high-quality service while making a profit. Set hourly rates for each of your full-time designers that reflect particular skills and experience. Estimate each job as accurately as possible and provide clients with a detailed description of the services you'll provide for the fee. Record all costs associated with the job and monitor costs against budget, identifying any additional work not specified in the original estimate. Invoice all work promptly, arranging stage payments for longer, more complex jobs. Operate a strict credit control policy to maintain cash flow.

About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, Ian Linton has been a professional writer since 1990. His articles on marketing, technology and distance running have appeared in magazines such as “Marketing” and “Runner's World.” Linton has also authored more than 20 published books and is a copywriter for global companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics from Bristol University.

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