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Three Essential Books About Running a Design Business


Nearly five years ago I founded Fell Swoop to focus on web and mobile user experience design. For roughly five years prior, I worked as an independent consultant and freelancer with only a few full time stints at large agencies before that. Whatever I’ve learned about running a design business I’ve mostly learned the hard way, but there have been a few lessons I’ve learned by reading three excellent books.

1. The Creative Business Guide to Running a Graphic Design Business

Written by Cameron S. Foote, the original edition of this book was geared towards traditional graphic designers, but the information in this book is applicable to any small service business. This book is a reference manual and I’ve returned to it countless times over the years. I’ve gotten more use out of this book than anything on my shelf. If you are simply considering starting a new design services business I would suggest starting with one of the two other books on this list first, but once you are in the driver’s seat, this shouldn’t be far from reach.

2. Design Is a Job

Mike Monteiro’s book is extremely valuable and any aspiring studio or small business owner should spend a few hours reading this short book. Mike’s years of experience running Mule Design enables him to offer practical advice for keeping a small design services business running smoothly for years. If you are considering starting a design services business for the first time, I highly recommend reading this book as a primer, but any designer that cares about the business world they operate in will find value in the author’s style and humor.

3. Success By Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers

David’s Sherwin’s recently published book offers a nice overview to the business of design and takes things a bit further than Design Is a Job without becoming a deep reference manual. David’s writing comes from a place of experience and wisdom that aspiring and practicing business owners can both benefit from. I feel the book was also written with in-house design managers and creative directors in mind, offering useful perspective beyond the nuts and bolts of running a business. There are some useful exercises in the book intended to help studios and teams identify their core strengths and develop a practice and a culture around them.