top of page

Planning, Strategy & Management

Philosophies, Roles & Approach

GDE730 Week 1

Different Models of Creative Practice

If you were to conduct in depth research into Graphic Designers expecting to find one strategic business model for success, you would not find it and would still be left wondering, What is the best model for creative practice?  The reason I make this statement is because my research indicates that no two design businesses are alike, the only parameters that can be measured to define success or failure, are generic business competencies such as budgeting, accounting and customer service.  Some of the case study designers openly admitting that business skills did not come naturally to them.  Sam Winston confessing that he was living very frugally for a number of years before more lucrative projects began to come his way.  This is in some part related to his desire to follow his own creative interests rather than work for a studio who would demand particular outcomes within a given timeframe, to meet the exacting client demands.  The difficulty creative people have with management of themselves or their business, seems to be a common theme, as Adrian Talbot & Julian House, concurred when they explained that it is their partner, Katy Richardson, who deals with the logistics of running the business.  Defined as Managing Partner to Adrian and Julian's Partner/Creative Director labels, Katy has clearly organised and lead Intro Studio to the successful company it is today.  In fact if you look at Intro's 'About' page below, you can see they are a award winning business.  Interestingly they also claim to have pioneered cross-media working with a one stop shop for client design needs.  When you look at the 'people' page on their site you can see how they deliver this promise, through a broad range of employees who specialise in particular strands of Graphic Design practice.  This is one model of practice that many studios are emulating as clients are demanding more variety in outcomes with the convenience of dealing with one company for all their needs. 



Designers are unique business people in that they have an indeterminate commodity to trade, design thinking.  Adrian Talbot stated that you cannot learn to be a designer, it is "inherently" part of you (Talbot c.2020).  If being a designer is such an integral part of who we are, how does one go about explaining our sensibilities to clients and other interested parties?  It seems to require a deep exploration of ourselves and what makes us stand out, our Unique Selling Point as fellow student Ingrid Reigstad tussled with on the ideas wall this week in relation to marketing our sustainable values.  Furthermore it also requires us to involve our ego, something we shy away from in design.  Marian Bantjes is happy to allude to this in her 2010 TED talk, in which she says that her work is driven by her heart, interests and ego.  Famously abandoning her Graphic Design job in favour of following her own path, she has never been more successful.  Her aim, to bring joy to the viewer of her work, shines through in her energetic, quirky and fun designs. 


Bantjes does the work that she wants to do, how she afforded to be in the position to do this is not clear.  One could assume that she saved up enough money to quit her job and provide herself with a financial buffer.  She could also have left her design job with a number of clients already interested to work with her directly, or at the very least contacts to help her get underway.  Annoyingly, the advice she gives on her website to designers just starting out is "Don’t buy a house, don’t get married, don’t have kids yet. You need to have the freedom to experiment and take risks. You may starve, but it’s important that you have as few financial obligations as possible in order to keep your freedom." (Bantjes c.2021)  This opinion perhaps aligns with notions of how we view artists trying to make a living from their work.  Often artists are defined as 'struggling', working another job to fund the freedom Bantjes speaks of.  Are we now to realise that the only way to follow our own heart in design is to sacrifice those things we hold dearest? 


As a mother of 3 children, perhaps I need to face the reality that I will probably not have the success of Bantjes, because I will need to financially support my family and this means I cannot be 100% focussed on my design practice.  I believe that this model of practice is unattainable to all but a few designers who are able to pour their heart and soul in to their work with little or no financial or emotional commitments. 

Poster Design by Marian Bantjes 2014

There appears to be a selection of designers for whom personal connections enabled their business growth.  For a few, like Tom & Kristopher from Regular Practice, finding a likeminded partner and keeping up with connections, made during and after design education, has helped push their practice forward.  Initially setting up in a communal creative studio space, working alongside people from different backgrounds, gave them something they referred to as a synergy with other designers.  The positives of this kind of network business model are multi-faceted as designers can develop interests in other disciplines, open doors for collaboration on projects, develop trends whilst inhabiting a micro-culture of living and working in close proximity, and see how other professionals operate, something they strongly advocate.  Many a successful business has been built with the bricks of 'word of mouth' and positive referral.  Success with this model requires a person who is personable, inclusive and above all a good communicator.  Sometimes good partnerships evolve from one person having these characteristics, who then supports a more introvert partner.  

When considering the power of word of mouth in business it is important to look at the reasons people talk and the reasons they listen.  The infographic below demonstrates the key points.  When thinking about how to write an introduction to your business, we need to understand the reasons people listen.  Moreover, when we communicate with potential customers we must instil trust, provide a concise backstory (this helps create the point of difference we strive for) and create interest in our audience. In this time of digital conversations, we need to curate our digital profile to ensure that we meet those 3 points and facilitate employment through WOM.  Sam Winston touched on this when he said we must be honest and transparent in business. 

































Sometimes a reflection of trust is demonstrated by actions rather than words and this is true of the business models who gift their employees stake in the business.  In 2018 the producers of the animation Wallace and Gromit did just that, affording their employees a majority share in the business.  The aim being to ensure the business remained in British hands, to encourage employees to collaborate for the good of the company and give them security.  When interviewed by Sarah Butler for The Guardian Newspaper, founder of Aardman Animations Peter Lord said “We always believed that independence was our strong suit. We didn’t have to dance to anybody else’s tune and could make our own decisions.” (Lord 2018)

The founders strong desire to ensure decisions relating to the company remained autonomous and characterfully British was at the heart of this practice model and is testament to the owners faith and trust in their workforce.  They have created an inclusive environment where every employee has a voice.  This is something that American executive, designer and technologist, John Maeda speaks repeatedly about in his presentation for USI Talk On design thinking and creative leadership.  Maeda believes that design is inclusion and inclusion results in expansion.  Successful leaders therefore, must have an inclusive approach with staff and customers alike.  He goes on to say that empathy is required to fulfil a clients requirements, but a person cannot empathise if they have not experienced the same.  Therefore the act of inclusion provides a breadth of experience within your organisation that begets empathy.

The 'about' page of Aardman Studios shows the full range of services they offer and the success they have accomplished visibly apparent.  What I do find curious, that peeks my interest and makes me want to listen (see above), is the statement "we do more than you think..."  I clever sentence hook that immediately makes you want to know more.
















Following my research, I want to focus my 'about' statement to demonstrate the 3 points people want to listen as mentioned above.  I have also been tasked with answering the questions, What is the idea?, How does it work? and Why does it work?  As a designer who has never worked commercially, I felt it was important to explore the creative practice model, ethos and values of designers I have discovered on my MA journey so far whom I admire and relate to.  I analysed the following Graphic designers/illustrators who all work with textile materials; Evelin Kasikov, Peter Crawley & Hannah Waldron.


Evelin Kasikov

































Evelin's work really interested me because she explores the parameters between digital and analogue using cross stitch.  She has also produced some immaculate book binding work.  Both aspects requiring a very high level of precision, planning and craftmanship.  Her 'about' page is written in the third person.  It gives the concise back story, demonstrates the trust she has built with her existing clients, (many of which are well regarded organisations) and finally the audiences interest is peaked by the reference to a book without ink, the length of time on this project and her design/production process.  If I was going to critique this 'about', I would like to see it written from a first person perspective, a little more from her heart and with some element of inclusive communication.(It is worth noting that she has posted interview links on her pages that would provide more insight in to her approach if you looked further)

Peter Crawley





































Peter Crawley caught my eye because I was intrigued by how he was using thread like a pencil, drawing on paper.  He progressed his work from flat running stitch 'illustrations' to more relief work, thread tufts protruding from paper.  He uses thick cartridge paper that he pierces with a high degree of precision to create the holes for each strand of thread, the process reminding me of the patience needed to thread a weaving loom with a fine yarn, each thread through a heddle and reed!  The video below shows his process. 

Peter's 'about' page is quite scant for information.  Although listed as a "Bio" the information contained in that paragraph relates to Crawley's working process and materials.  He does write it from a first person perspective but for some reason it does not come across as particularly personable.  The only gem of information we glean is where the stitched illustration idea first manifested.  He credits clients from some huge international corporations but the 'matter of fact' way he list's them indicate nothing of his client relationship approach.

A little more digging on my part revealed a man who enjoys running and is a product designer by day.  This indicates that this work is a 'side hustle' and perhaps after 11 years of doing it, he is working on something new (webpage reads 2008-2019).  I think this is an example of a designer who is making time to experiment with something he is inspired by.  This work has led to collaborations with athletes and his social media accounts show that he has produced work for Unicef's Haiti Appeal.  

Tom & Kristopher from Regular Practice asked the question, Do we (designers) really need a website?  I wonder if Peter Crawley agrees as he seems to place more value on communication through social media and has not paid his website much attention since 2019.  Alternatively he may just be very busy with his day job to afford the time at present. As he is clearly not actrively marketing this aspect of his practice but rather waiting to see if commisions materialise, the 'about' page is perhaps less important for him.

The video below definitely provokes interest and the list of very high profile clients demonstrates he can be trusted to deliver but there is a lack of back story about Peter Crawley, which I think is a shame.  




































Hannah Waldron




























I was given Hannah Waldron's details by tutor Sarah during the last module and immediately loved her work.  Her designs have been compared to the great textile designers of the Bauhaus movement and her woven tapestries are bright and graphical.  Her 'about' page gives the audience a back story, indicates a wide variety of clients from different sectors who trust working with her and she hooks your interest with the embedded video showing her work process; from sketching in the garden, to producing paper designs and translating them to woven pieces.  The studio, outside environment and accompanying melodic tune all contribute to a calm and serene atmosphere as we watch Waldron's methodical process. 


As a woven textile specialist, I understand the special relationship one develops with the loom when working on a piece.  It is considered, mechanical, repetitive, requiring concentration and core strength.  Waldron demonstrates this well and eludes to the magical traditional process that is therapeutic and tactile. A fascinating watch that would interest any viewer and visitor to her pages.

If I was to suggest an improvement, I would like to hear Waldron speak of her influences in the video.  This could even have been done as on screen quotes.  I also hate the red page and the horrid blue writing that links to her socials!  This page needs the feeling of the video, in my opinion. 



Ideas Wall Engagement with Peers (My posts can be found here)










Why we talk & listen
Aardman 'About' Page 2021
Communicate my design position, current or speculative
Evelin Kasikov 'About' 2021
Peter Crawley 'About' 2019
Hannah Waldron 'About'

Prompted by a fellow student posting Stefan Sagmeister's website, I investigated his 'about' page.

Posting my WIP ideas for a proposal, I discussed with Weronika how I can convey a customer orientated, flexible approach by the language I use in my 'about' paragraph.

Responding to a fellow students WIP proposal, similar to my initial idea, I gave her a couple of interesting designers who have contributed to the physical environments of their clients premises or outdoor spaces.  

Thinking back to 'The Self' and how values can be influenced by our experiences in response to a fellow student linking values to our 'about' paragraph. 

Investigating Layla's IG page and giving her my crit on her ideas. 

Empathising with a fellow student about defining one's design direction and beginning to formulate the idea of it being based on all that I am passionate about.  Also trying out an idea without fear of failure. 

Trying to unpick how Someone Studio organises staff to move around projects and inject ideas, whilst also maintaining a sense of order and professionalism.

Suggesting how one could communicate a sustainable aesthetic within an 'about' page, without it feeling insincere.

WIP ideas posted on the wall for peer feedback
Developing Ideas

Following on from my resource investigations and my initial idea posted on the ideas wall earlier in the week (see above), I began to think more about topics that hold meaning for me on a personal level.  I was diagnosed with a mental health condition, which manifested when my youngest son was only 15 months old.  In light of this, I am able to empathise with anyone who is suffering in this regard.  I am also an advocate of speaking out about Mental Health and Well-being and have seen a shift in awareness around the subject over the last 10 years.  The issue has again been highlighted, as people suffered during the recent periods of lockdown.

I decided that my business model could aim to support these campaigns and I am particularly interested in how businesses are monitoring and supporting mental health in the workplace, an agenda that is part of the Health and Safety Executive's guidelines for compliance.

Further to the webinar this week, I listened to the advice around broadening investigations past the design industry and began to look at about pages of health and wellbeing organisations and practitioners. (See discovery notes above)   I concluded that they often use 'mission' and 'vision' on their about pages, alongside a short history/our story section.

When discussing their mission they present themselves as advocates of the people they represent, that they are at the heart of what they do and their voices should be heard.  They also talk about a "lifespan" service which makes the reader trust that they are dedicated to their mission in the long term and will remain true to their mission indefinitely.  Moreover they inform the reader about how they promote the best support of the individuals they represent, whether this is local, national or international. 

The vision sections are aspirational.  How they view their organisation developing our world towards their vision of utopia.  They speak of development and research, linking their work to the fields of science and technology.  Furthermore, they identify growing needs in our society and how they might respond to these using developing tools and through new perspectives.

In summary, these 'about' page constructs display a high degree of empathy and empowerment of others.  This is a stance I would like to build in to my synopsis and I decided to marry this with the 3 elements that support active listening.  The final draft of my about page can be seen below.

ADHD 'about' page 2021







Talbot, A. (c2020)  Week 1: Case Studies Intro Design Module GDE710. Falmouth University Resource. [online pdf transcript] Available from:///C:/Users/melki/Downloads/GDE710%20Wk%201%20Case%20Study%20Intro%20Design%20(1).pdf  [Accessed on 02/06/21]

Practitioner Case Studies (c.2020) Week 1:  Case Studies Lecture 1 Business Foundations. Falmouth University Resource. [online video]  Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21]

TED Talks (2010) Marian Bantjes: Intricate Beauty by Design [online video] Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21)

Bantjes, M.  (c2021) Questions Answered [online interview] Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21)

I-Scoop - Digital Business & Transformation Hub (c.2021) Understanding word-of-mouth in the digital age.  [Online Article] Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21]

Butler, Sarah (2018) Wallace & Gromit producers hand stake to staff [online article], The Guardian 10 November Available from:[Accessed on 02/06/21]

Youtube. [online video]  Uploaded by Design Indaba. (2016)  John Maeda on design thinking and creative leadership Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21]

Youtube [online video] uploaded by Amrit World (2016) Motorola Stitch Boot Animation The Making of  Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21]

Vimeo [online video] Uploaded by Tim Laing (2020) Hannah Available from: [Accessed on 02/06/21]


Intro Design Studio. Available from:

Peter Crawley. Available from:

Marian Bantjes. Available from:

Hannah Waldron. Available from:

Evelin Kasikov. Available from:

ADHD Foundation. Available from:

Oakhaven Hospice. Available from:

Mindscape. Available from:

bottom of page