Entrepreneurship, and Consulting — Stories on how to Build, Scale, and Grow Design Companies.
How do you stand out as a design agency in a field quickly becoming commoditized? How do you get clients when no one cares about you? How do you build a culture? Or hire the best talent when you’re competing against top industry companies?
After starting one company and scaling another, this page, and the articles listed below, are what I’ve written dedicated to answering all of those questions and much more. Not simply the successful decisions, but the difficult ones, the ones that failed, and the topics no one told me about.
Myself and a three cofounders started Raft in 2015, and during our brief four-year history we went from an office in a squatter space to building a multi-million euro company.
- We handled research across the US and UK for Facebook on new consumer products from Building 8
- We partnered with Elsevier on research, strategy, and design, to introduce new digital products and refine current products in their medical software portfolio
- ING leveraged us within their Innovation Organisation to design products and run business initiatives over multiple years
- MasterCard’s Pre-paid division worked with us to introduce user-centered thinking to their organisation
- NS (The Dutch Railways) brought us in to drive their Innovation Organisation and Digital Train efforts including, at times, being product owner for their core consumer applications over the course of an ongoing three year relationship
At argodesign (2019–2022), we unlocked an entirely new set of global experiences, challenges, and opportunities. We scaled the studio in Amsterdam and developed a larger pool of talent to help out client partners, we brought in more diverse leadership styles, and most important, we gained access to an amazing set of new clients including with IBM, Dreamworks, NBCU, HP, Maxeon, and many more.
After building one company in Raft, and scaling another in argo, in 2022 I left argo and joined Modernist to work for a third time in growing and scaling a design studio.
Look for more stories and lessons below as I begin a new period in my career!
- Let’s Fix Things — Design analysis on a variety of topics from Smart Home to Applications to Government Policy
- The Dark Side of Design — Dystopian views on the future based on design
Two of my favourites episodes to get started.
S02 Episode 2 — All my friends are still dead
Continuing from Season 1, this episode dives deeper into asking the question “if all my friends are digital, do they…
Articles — Raft History and Lessons (2015–2018)
- The Raft Story — How It All Started
- Make Years Mean Something
- How to do Right by Your Employees
- The Unsung Attributes of Culture
- Outpaced — How to Manage and Mentor Towards a Better Future
- How to Create Your First Salary Bands
- Business Development — a basic primer of thoughts (2019 version)
- 2 Best Pieces of Advice I Got When Starting a Design Consultancy
- 3 Foundations for a Great Client Relationship
- Marketing and the Importance of Being Top of Mind
- Level Up — from UI Agency to Strategy Consulting
- It’s Not an Acquisition
Articles — As argodesign Amsterdam (2019 —2022 )
- Why Great Managers Love Losing Their Best People
- Great Leaders Are Those Who Aren’t Needed
- Management Maxims — fake but real, real but difficult
- Annual Opening Letter — 2020
- What You’re Doing That’s Hurting Your Sales Wins
- Why Design Isn’t [Yet] Ready For Remote Work
- DesignOps in 60 seconds
- Thank God it’s FRIMO (Notes from our studio meeting during the COVID-19 situation)
- Writing Job Descriptions to Reflect Your Studio
- Studio Leadership and Direction During 2020: Endure or Adapt?
- The Drawbacks of the Home Office on Culture, Work, and Community
- When Imposters Are Actually the Most Capable
- Distributed Working — 2020 Policy Update
- argodesign Amsterdam — End of Year Report 2020
- We couldn’t travel, but we could read! My top 5 books of 2020
- argodesign Amsterdam — End of Year Report 2021
- Business Development — a basic primer of thoughts (2022 version)
Articles — Modernist (2022 — )
- What an Indonesian heavy metal band taught me about running a design business
- TwitchCon — The Future of Online Work is All Potential
- We Have Work All Wrong — We need new operating models for a new world!
- The Throw is More Important Than the Catch
- 6 Books for Summer Reading (2022)
- Writing the Business Development Playbook for Modernist
- The Critical Role of Account Management in a Design Studio
- Turning Non-Sequiturs Into a Source of Business Innovation
- How to Turn Around a Crisis of Confidence
Question and Answer — As argodesign Amsterdam (2019 —2022 )
Over the last year, I’ve received many questions on running a Design Studio. This is my attempt to begin to share those questions, and my answers publicly.
- Q: Answer These Three Questions Before Starting Any Acquisition Negotiation
- Q: If You Started Over, Where Would You Open a New Studio?
- Q: Does Europe Still Offer Growth for Design Studios
- Q: How Has COVID-19 Impacted Your Design Studio, And What Are You Doing to Handle it?
- Q: Why Was Moving to a Distributed World Easy for argodesign AMS?
- Q: How Can I Get Better Visibility Within My Company?
Articles — Non-Design Tips and Techniques for Designers
Raft Email Catalogue (2015–2018)
I would routinely send emails to the studio, sharing my thoughts on different topics. This is a variety of those for public sharing.
- How to Win Clients — Effort v. Return
- Sharing Ideas for Better Business Development
- How to Best Deliver Design Value to Clients
- Job Levels and Expectations at Small Companies
- Setting our First Business Targets
- Why Continued Training for Designers is Critical
- Why We Forget to Celebrate Wins
- Why it’s Critical for Designers to Align on Tools
- The Small Things — Let Them Eat