Since its inception, Obsessed With Design has quickly become one of the most popular design podcasts on iTunes. Each episode consists of author, speaker, designer, and Principal Josh Miles, interviewing some of the best and brightest minds in the design industry. These individuals have ranged from graphic design legends like Paula Scher and Debbie Millman to experts from the world of email marketing, architecture, and product engineering.
One of the most fun aspects of the podcast, however, has been interacting with our fans on social media. In the show’s short lifespan, we’ve already amassed a very active following that loves to tweet out their favorite quotes and questions for guests. We’ve decided that it’s high time that our guests start answering our fans’ questions.
A few weeks ago, we received this tweet from Andrew Plotsky:
You know what, Andrew? We agree. That’s a great question.
Many people assume that the purpose of a successful business is to grow in size, but why should a design studio grow? What are the benefits of growing your design studio? What are the drawbacks? If you’re starting a design studio from scratch, should your primary objective be revenue growth, or something else?
We decided the best person to answer this question was our friend, Aaron Draplin.
Aaron Draplin is a graphic designer, author, and founder of his own design studio, Draplin Design Co. He has very deliberately built a design studio that is small and nimble, but still objectively successful by any metric you can imagine.
“Why do you have to grow? Why can’t you stay small and agile and frisky and scrappy and loose? I think you can.”
- Aaron Draplin
During our interview, Aaron talks at length about his decision to keep his design studio small. He said that, everywhere he goes, there’s someone smarter than him asking why he doesn’t grow his studio. Every talk he gives, he gets questions about growing his small design studio into a large agency.
“I’ve been there, and it’s just not for me,” Aaron said. “I just felt phony. I felt like I didn’t even want to be in there.”
Moreover, large agency growth undermines what an Aaron set out to do when he started his business. He loves designing, creating things with his hands, and doing very cerebral creative work.
The larger his studio grows, however, the less of the creative work he can actually do. The issue that Aaron began to recognize as he brought people on board to work on projects is that growth is always accompanied by more administration.
“That’s just called business. I’m not slamming people who know how to do that well, it’s just for me, it was a lot of red tape,” Aaron said.
To answer Andrew’s question, growth doesn’t need to be the ultimate goal of a successful designer or design studio. Aaron Draplin is a desing icon and living proof that small can be better.