Seems odd to wish yourself a happy birthday but after a decade of ups and downs it feels great to have got to where we are today and a (reserved, we are British after all!) celebration seems appropriate. We are so incredibly thankful to be celebrating a decade of design in 2018. We could not have done it without our family, friends and most importantly our amazing clients. (without whom we would not be here!)
Over the last decade Stonefern has lived in 3 offices (some pictures below), gone through 3 rebrands, drunk 7500 cups of coffee, produced 5 terabytes of art boards, helped 322 clients, experienced success, learnt from failure, worked late, worked early, worked weekends and sung badly along to Radio One (and now quietly to Radio Two) BUT we love running our 'studio in the sticks' and wouldn't trade our journey for anything!
As we look back on our first decade of design we have learnt some really valuable lessons and if you are reading this and thinking of becoming a designer or setting up your own studio these experiences and lessons may help you on your own journey.
There is no rhyme or reason as to why some clients come your way and some pass you by. If it isn’t meant to be don’t dwell on it, it's just life. Good, bad, indifferent. It all has a place and you just need to trust things happen for a good reason.
In our experience everyone wants a brand and website like John Lewis or Apple on a shoestring budget and they want it in 10 days. Design doesn’t work like that and quality takes research, planning, design, revision and most of all time… Make sure you manage your client’s expectations and don’t be afraid to tell them what is attainable within their budget. Whatever you do, don’t tell them half way through the process!
Most of our mistakes have taught us valuable lessons. Everything from a disastrous presentations or less than perfect pitch to taking on a non-paying client. Failure is just as important as success and to be honest, you can never really appreciate the highs if you haven’t experienced the lows.
Never ignore your gut feeling as our experience has taught us if you do you will regret it. It’s very hard not to grab at everything that lands in your path especially if times are tough or you are just starting out. Remember, you have a value and it’s important you don’t undersell yourself or take on work just because you feel you have to.
In the early days it used to happen all the time, you have a brief, you know what the client wanted to achieve but here you are 5 days into a 2 day project. Only really experience will teach you to be realistic about timelines and budgets, but there is a flip side with a downside. When a client says, “It should only take you 5 minutes” remember your real value. Though this statement may be true and it may only take you 5 minutes, remember it took you 10 years to learn how to do it in five minutes.
Should be lesson one at any graphic design school…some client's will like your work. Some most definitely won’t. Design is a hugely subjective process and you must not take it personally.
We always believe the route to a great product is a mutual respect between designer and client. If a client does not have an appropriate budget or does not understand the value design brings to their business then you should pass. Subsequently if you do not feel passionate about what being asked to work on then don’t do the client a disservice by taking on the brief. Neither party should have unmanaged expectations as this leads to poor quality work and that’s not in anyone’s best interests.
If it was easy everyone would run their own studio and we would all be millionaires. Unfortunately in reality is can be really tough and when in any given morning you are designing, accounting, phoning, meeting, pitching, quoting, emailing and spending an hour on hold to HMRC you will definitely want to quit sometimes, but…
When you launch a new brand, a web build goes live, you see your packaging designs in Waitrose or a client receives their new business cards you soon forget about all the hard work and enjoy the moment!
STONEFERN DESIGN STUDIO
West Gate House, West Street, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9NQ , UK