Week Nine: Core Characteristics, Ethics and Theory

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

This week's lecture presented three case studies of designers turned entrepreneurs.

Case Study One: Robin Howie, Founder of Fieldwork Facility

  • Kingston University and RCA graduate.

  • Design studio Fieldwork Facility.

  • Design studio for uncharted territories.

Image: https://fieldworkfacility.com/projects/the-scots-pine-cloud-observatory

Could you elaborate more on your freelance work outside of the studio?

  • The studio was slow to set off.

  • Took on freelance work while the studio became established.

What does your design practice mean to you?

  • Idealistic.

  • Unwilling to specialise.

  • Being resourceful.

You say your MA wasn't the right course; what was it, and what do you think you'd be better suited to?

  • Communication, Art and Design.

  • Wanted to study design interactions as it seemed more challenging.

Do you think your design practice differs from your studio work to freelance work?

  • Hard to huggle starting a studio and freelancing.

  • Became part of an innovation consultancy called IDEO.

In terms of what you were doing with Fieldwork Facility, from a more commercial perspective, how did you think about having a competitive advantage as a studio?

  • Love unusual design challenges.

  • Competitive advantage to jump into more open-ended briefs.

  • Thrive with challenges that other studios might flounder in.

How do you feel about the often spoken battle between taking pride and a lot of care in your craft and being so detail orientated versus the need to provide a service to a client on time and in/ under budget?

  • For the first five years, the studio was purely craft-focused.

How have your feelings on craft versus delivery changed as Fieldwork Facility has gotten older?

  • Idealism has caught up with reality.

  • Have put a lot more focus into how you can run a business.

In terms of operational ideas and challenges, what do you think you weren't equipped with that you wish you were at the start?

  • No cash at your back means no security.

  • No money also means waiting for the next paid prospect rather than creating your opportunities.

  • Starting a studio straight out of college means you haven't acquired a career's worth of networks.

Were there any difficulties operationally?

  • Finding own opportunities.

  • Careful of tax.

  • Learn as you go along and seek help when needed.

Is there anything in particular that went really well at Fieldwork Facility that you're really proud of?

  • The output of work.

  • Creating own opportunities.

Fieldwork Facility Favorites

  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park children's playground.

  • Reimagining community engagement collaboration with NLA.

  • Museum of us.

What do you think of ethics when it comes to design and your practice?

  • Ethics are a natural reflection of your morals.

  • Should be leaving the world a slightly better place with each project.

Case Study Two: John Sinclair (Sinx), Founder of ustwo Studio

  • Graduate of CSM

  • Questions how do you transition from creating your own work to fulfilling someone else's brief.

Image: https://www.ustwo.com/join-us/studios

Was it startling moving from a student to Big Animal?

  • Big Animal least corporate environment but working with some big clients.

  • Projects are slower than student projects.

Moving from Big Animal to starting ustwo, did you try to reclaim the pace or any of that theory that you think you might have lost as a designer?

  • Less about having to go back to work like I was at college but more about taking these learnings from college and the needs and requirements from clients and making them work together.

Was it a constant battle to deliver something for a client versus creating something as a craft? Did you have to try and overcome client's expectations about what they wanted?

  • Design is very important, but there are other parts to the business.

  • A successful product is the design, business and financing altogether.

  • All aspects of the business have to work well with each other for a successful design.

As ustwo grew into new areas, did you feel out of depth at some points, and how did you deal with that?

  • Knew a little bit about hiring tech engineers and/or developers.

  • Had an interest in development and design from the beginning and how they work together.

  • Hiring people that have helped steer the business.

  • Make sure you're open and listening to new people and new ideas.

How big an impact do you think ustwo expanding internationally had on different viewpoints and ideas?

  • Growing was an organic process.

  • Being naive helped make the business global.

  • It began through a passion for working with others and as a team.

ustwo is a values and ethics driven business. Was that something you always planned?

  • Always wanted to make a difference.

  • Made choices as it grew.

  • Working with charitable sectors costs money.

  • As ustwo has grown, there are now more options to work on projects that make a difference.

  • As you grow, you need to surface your values.

Case Study Three: Sophie Hawkins, Founder of S.HAWKINS

  • Studied fashion and performance sportswear at Falmouth University.

Image: https://sophiehawkins.com/pages/sunday-paper-s-hawkins

Did you go straight from graduating to creating your own business?

  • Began as a marketing assistant at Clarks.

  • Taught and re-taught everything learned.

What was your design practice like as a student? What were your goals and ethics?

  • Gradually got better and better with each project.

Did you translate your ambition easily to your designs when you started your own business? Did you have to make any sacrifices?

  • Small scale projects weren't eco-friendly on a bigger scale.

  • Inspired by a talk from Charles Ross to upcycle.

How do you maintain being eco-friendly as your business grows?

  • Eco-friendly products and materials are expensive.

  • To be eco, you can create high-end products with those expensive materials that they have to sell at a high price.

  • Or, you can hire more hands to help with upcycling.

In the beginning, you crafted everything by hand, and now you use people in factories to do the same. When did you make that transition?

  • More efficient.

  • Through learning on different jobs.

You launched your product line first before you started doing marketing. Why was that?

  • Could only post once a day on Instagram.

  • Found a factory that could deliver the goods first.

  • Ideally would've built up a following beforehand.

What are the critical business functions you have outsourced?

  • Accounting, although do as much of it yourself.

  • Do everything first yourself.

  • Have a team of freelancers.

In terms of scaling the business, currently, you have not really approached investment. Why is that?

  • Not had the time to execute a business plan.

  • Not created an official demand for the product.

  • Taking time to take on the role of sales.

How do you sell your products?

  • Sales come from meeting people.

  • Appropriate the product story to the person interested.

  • Need social skills.

  • Sending as a newsletter once a month.

“It’s about breaking down the systems, it’s about challenging the norm, challenging what the status quo is and not accepting that things have to be the way they are.”

Loran Dunn

Workshop Challenge

For the challenge for this particular week, my outline for becoming a design entrepreneur was a formula, creative + strategic =design entrepreneur. I visualised this formula with five general steps, which are:

  1. Learn: through education or otherwise.

  2. Experience: working within a design-related field.

  3. Establish: your own practice.

  4. Promote: what you do.

  5. Grow: as a business.

These five steps, along with being strategic (connecting the dots of the pentagon) and being creative (making the pentagon and pentagram shapes with colour), culminates in being a design entrepreneur.


A few things I learned about design entrepreneurship in week nine were that there is no set method for becoming a design entrepreneur. Like anything, there seems to usually be a set of experiences that eventually lead someone to become an entrepreneur, such as working at a practice for some years you develop the skillset required to begin your own practice, establishing a niche in the market, wanting to change the traditional ways of doing things and challenge the norms, or even just pure luck, being at the right place in the right time.


flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/897/pages/week-9-lecture-entrepreneurship-case-studies?module_item_id=50703 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2021].

Intern. (2018). Intern — Dunn and Dusted. [online] Available at: https://intern-mag.com/dunn-and-dusted/ [Accessed 21 Aug. 2021].

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