Week Four: Business/Project Plans and Communication

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Case Study 1: Studio/Client Relationship

This lecture was presented as a podcast in a conversation between:

Stuart Tolley: Creative Director and Founder of graphic design studio Transmission.

Emma Harverson: Editor at White Lion Publishing.

Lucy Warburton: Commissioning Editor, previously at White Lion.

Build + Become book

Image: https://www.quarto.com/sections/news/post.php?id=104

Designed to make you think differently and reflect upon the way consumers increasingly download information.

Lucy, how did you become editor of the series?


  • Have been commissioning for two years.

  • Wanted to create something different.

  • Presented a pitch to the publisher.

  • Became editor from the pitch.

Is it encouraged to bring ideas to the table?


  • If you've got an idea, it's best shared, best presented, best collaborated.


  • It's encouraged across the team to input any ideas.

Emma, what were your responsibilities when the book was in development, and how has your role changed?


  • Joined after the first four books.

  • Oversees manuscript being made into a book.

  • Schedule and budgets.

What were White Lion's original strategic outlines or business plan when starting the project, and what were their expectations?


  1. Is the idea strong?

  2. Does the sales team think it's going to happen?

  3. Does it make economic sense?

  • Had to put together a three-year business plan for the series.

  • A series has a bigger cash injection at the beginning.

  • Higher risks.

  • The energy of the finances and teams of people is aimed at financial success for everyone involved.

  • Global capture is important.

  • Continuous sales.

Were there any key moments in the development process when you or the publisher revised the initial approach/strategy?


  • Continuous challenges.

  • It (the idea/pitch) has to be rigorously tested.

  • The original idea completely shifted 3/4 times.

  • Collaboration made it stronger.

Can you explain the process for finding and commissioning an appropriate author?


  • Collaborative process.

  • Outline key areas.

  • What is available on the market already?

  • What new angle can you bring?

  • Have someone that really likes the concept, and that will help you market the final product.

  • Put yourself into those worlds.

How did you hear about Transmission, and why did you approach us to create the design and illustration?


  • We wanted the design to be a huge part.

  • Recommended.

  • Finding a designer with a mix of skills.

  • Being enthusiastic about the big idea.

Explain the bookmaking process and highlight some of the key roles, stages and responsibilities.


  • The commissioning editor works with the author to pull the manuscript together.

  • The manuscript comes to me.

  • Pull together (freelancers) a designer, copywriters, proofreaders, indexes.

  • All about communication.

  • Keep to the schedule.

What are the publisher expectations for the design direction, and did you commission any other external experts to help with the planning and development of the project?


  • We did several tests.

  • Continuity in style.

  • Focus groups.

  • The publisher wanted to see that it was clear and aligned with what the sales team felt works well.

  • Look smart.

  • On brand.

  • Taking the book outside of the meeting room.

  • A lot of testing.

  • Let everyone build into your idea.

Why was there a change from hardback to softback?


  • Book publishing hugely competitive.

  • Respond to data.

  • The book was selling well in travel stores, so softback was more convenient for travellers.

  • There's a 10GBP barrier in most people minds when buying a book.

What's the importance of project planning, communication and building trust in the early stages of a project? Are there any planning structures and tools that you prefer to use?


  • Scheduling documents.

  • Communication of dates.

  • Planning with calls and emails.

How has the organisation and feedback structure changed as the series developed?


  • The process developed.

  • New people join, so you have to take time to familiarise the process with them.

Have there been different publisher expectations?


  • Fulfilling your initial plan.

  • Keep growing the expectations.

  • Keep expectation high.

  • They don't really change but keep expectations high.

Case Study 2: Studio Set Up

The second case study was also in the form of a podcast with Stuart Tolley in conversation with Hamish Makgill.

Hamish Makgill: Creative Director and Founder of Studio Makgill, which has been running since 2007.

Image: https://www.zetteler.co.uk/clients/studio-makgill

Can you explain Red Studio and explain why you set up a studio so soon after studying?


  • Maybe people didn't want to employ us.

  • We wanted to do it.

Did you learn about setting up a studio business in education?


  • No, we learnt the hard way.

How long did the studio take to set up?


  • It took a few months.

  • We were in talks about it at university.

What business strategies or aims did you put in place when starting Red Design?


  • It came from a drive to earn money and create brilliant work.

  • The quality of the work was more important than the financial gain. That hasn't changed.

  • We got to work on different pivotal projects.

  • Got work at a big label.

  • Worked with Fat Boy Slim.

  • Businesses are actually straightforward to set up and run. But partnerships are complicated.

Looking back, what mistakes did you make (if any) when starting Red, and what would you have done differently?


  • Didn't have a good approach to money.

  • Could've been more confident in the value of what we were producing.

  • We allowed ourselves not to be valued high enough.

  • The money side is really difficult.

Did working with London studios teach you anything about the business of running a design studio?


  • I probably developed my whole career there.

  • Experiencing the industry.

  • Honed my craft.

  • Communication.

  • Clients.

  • Empathise with clients.

You started Studio Makgill in 2007. Can you introduce the studio and the process of setting up?


  • I wanted to set up a studio again.

  • I like being in control.

  • Good clients don't come easy.

  • The recession meant there were no clients.

  • Studio Makgill is to create beautifully simple work.

How has the studio changed since 2007, and how many people work at Studio Makgill?


  • Six people.

  • Slowly grown.

  • A creative director, design director, studio manager and designers.

  • As you get bigger, you can start giving more responsibilities to more different skills.

Did you seek any help or business advice from external experts?


  • A financial director when the recession hit.

  • Still, use the tools that the financial director brought.

What do you see as the future?


  • More creative.

  • If you're not creative, there's no point.



  • Keep contacts close.

  • Advice is imperative.

  • Financial advice.

  • What is it you're doing?

  • Produce things that add value.

The Client Is Not Your Enemy: Redefining Your Client Relationship

Image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k22HKpzDMg4

  • Have a purpose.

  • Have a goal.

  • Drop the artist persona.

  • The client pays our bills.

  • Become more valuable to the client and get referrals.

  • Most work comes through word of mouth.

  • Get the job done to the best of your ability.

  • Understand the problem and goal.

  • Ask questions to the client.

  • Think about the language your using when speaking to the client.

  • Be an active listener.

  • Asking is more important than talking.

  • Asking questions filters what the client wants.

  • Ask 'why' three times.

  • Need vs Want.

  • Questions start broad and become more specific.

  • Keep an open mind.

  • Is there a problem to solve?

  • Can I solve it?

  • Can they afford me?

Business Strategy: a guide to effective decision-making.

Image: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-economist-business-strategy-3rd-edition/id947442196

The development of business strategy involves three distinct phases:

  1. Analysis

  2. Planning

  3. Implementation


  • Define your purpose.

  • Where are you now?

  • Where do you want to be?

  • How will you change?

  • Present the above questions as a clear and brief list of goals.


  • What makes you unique and gives you a competitive advantage?

  • This must be clear and convincing.

Set Strategy Boundaries

  • Be clear about the markets you'll deal in.

  • Be clear about the markets you won't deal in.


  • Emphasise the most profitable products, clients and markets.


  • Recognising the financial requirements of a strategy is fundamental to success.

  • Estimate costs and revenues.

Key Questions About Your Business

  • Who are your clients?

  • Which markets do you serve?

  • Do your clients have anything in common?

  • What services do you provide?

  • What clients value about your practice generally?

  • What are the external threats? And how can they be minimised?

  • SWOT analysis.

Workshop Challenge

Business Plan

Business Plan C.Studio
Download PDF • 2.97MB


Putting the business plan together was a difficult task as it was mainly drawn up from few experiences and remained somewhat fictional on the whole. However, the whole process has been enlightening and has allowed me to dip my toe into the business side of design, which I’m usually too frightened to think about. It has given me the confidence to approach this side of design and realise that it is a part of everything, as, without it, ideas and dreams cannot become a reality. It has also made me realise that everything should be accounted for as small purchases here and there without being accounted for could lead to catastrophic results in terms of finance.


flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/897/pages/week-4-lecture-case-study-1-studio-slash-client-relationship?module_item_id=50660 [Accessed 26 Jun. 2021].

flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/897/pages/week-4-lecture-case-study-2-studio-set-up?module_item_id=50661 [Accessed 26 Jun. 2021].

www.youtube.com. (n.d.). The Client Is Not Your Enemy: Redefining Your Client Relationship. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k22HKpzDMg4 [Accessed 25 Jun. 2021].

Kourdi, J. (2015). Business strategy : a guide to effective decision-making. London: Economist [Accessed 25 Jun. 2021].

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