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From the Ground, Font and Pantone Swatch Book Up

Basically, you have nothing. Really, nothing at all, except the green light to start a design studio and a realistic budget that would allow you to purchase all the necessities for it to function. It sounds impossibly utopian, I know, but let’s give this a try. Forget — for a brief moment — about worldly realities like clients, employees or time. What does a design office need to function? If you could buy anything you wanted — skipping the luxuries — what would be on your shopping list? Software, hardware, furniture, paper samples, office and art supplies… What’s indispensable for good, well-oiled functioning?

This premise comes from a suggested topic by a Speak Up reader, who will soon begin to build a design studio within a company. With all the necessities, I’m sure the task, while seemingly fun must be excruciatingly daunting.

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PUBLISHED ON Feb.08.2005 BY Armin
Tom B’s comment is:


Lots and lots of books.

On Feb.08.2005 at 06:26 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Tom, indeed books. But for the sake of this argument, what books would you deem essential?

The Elements of Typographic Style?

Creating the Perfect Design Brief?

QuarkXPress 6 for Dummies?

Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist?

On Feb.08.2005 at 06:37 PM
Sonyl’s comment is:

I would consider an LCD monitor for your computer an essential. At my current place of employment, I work on a CRT, and it gives me much more eye strain than when working on even a laptop LCD. You can get decent LCDs (maybe not the Apple Cinema displays *drool*) for not too much.

A few design rags like Print and Graphis, for inspiration and to remind you that good work is out there, and that you do it, even when you have to make crap as per client's request.

Oh, and a coffeemaker. With lots and lots of coffee.

On Feb.08.2005 at 06:41 PM
gregor’s comment is:

interesting topic Armin, as it also begs the question what are the very basic needs we have to meet in order to operate in this industry. Having done this twice I have the basics down, but with ample budget, here's my shopping list:


*15" powerbook w/ram maxed

*20" apple display

*14" ibook for office office machine - billing, correspondence, bookeeping, client database, etc

*mac mini + keyboard and monitor for contractors/freelancers

*2 Wacom tablets

*Aiport base station

*used g4 tower for file server


*Adobe Creative Suite

*Acrobat Pro Version 7

*QuarkXpress 6.5

*Freehand MX

*Painter IX

*iview media pro


*Fontlab for creating custom fonts

*Flash MX 2004



*Art directors tool kit

*Color Consultant Pro

other licenses:

*good foundation of fonts: roughly 200 - 500 depending on available budget


*A chair where my back doesn't ache by 10am - perhaps a knoll

*3 basic desks - top and legs

*conference table & chairs


*2 reading chairs

*storgae shelves for CD archives of client work

printed matter:

*pantone swatch books

*print magazine subscription

*a few good inspirational books

*creative services pricing guides

*The Graphic Designer's and Illustrator's Guide to Marketing and Promotion

*Aquent salary survey (good to have when hiring a freelancer)

Office & Art Supplies

*Portfolios & boards


*Charcoals, drawing pencils, pastels, oil sticks

*writing pens



*straight edge

*layout board

*light table

*x-acto knives

*letter sized paper pads

*blank CD & DVDs

office machines:

*1200 dpi printer (no preferred manufacturer, just needs to print from slides in addition to the usual usage)

*Mobile phone

*Land Phone





on the walls:

*original art

real estate:

*physical space in a location easy to get to and also easy for in-area or visiting clients to get to

marketing materials:


*reel or DVD

*web site

*business collateral

*other printed material: biz cards, direct mail, creative brief, creative request, client contract, etc

hmmm, I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but this covers a bit of ground

On Feb.08.2005 at 06:42 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Armin: Creating the Perfect Design Brief

pretty much an essential book for sure as is the document (forget where I found it originally): "Working with difficult clients."

insiprational books could include (at least on my shelf):

*I Am Almost Always Hungry

*Thinking With Type

*The ABC's of Bauhaus, The Bauhaus and Design Theory

*Make It Bigger

*Designing Brand Identity (alina wheeler)

*Varvara Stepanova : The Complete Work

*Tellmewhy: The First 24 Months of a New York Design Company (perfect reading to keep up the spirits in a new venture!)

My advice: stay away from any bookk that calls you a dummy

On Feb.08.2005 at 06:56 PM
graham’s comment is:

books, books, books, e.g.

andrey tarkovsky: sculpting in time

arnold schoenberg: style and idea

e.m. cioran: a short history of decay

w. g. sebald: vertigo, rings of saturn, austerlitz

guy debord: society of the spectacle, panegryic


john cage: notations

stephane mallarme: complete works

thomas frank: one market under god

robert graves: the white goddess

peter ackroyd: albion

complete set of jorge luis borges

complete set of sherlock holmes

william t. vollmann: rising up and rising down (7 volume edition)

peter singer: one world

john gray: false dawn

paolo zellini: a brief history of infinity

victor papanek: design for the real world

tom wolfe: from bauhaus to our house

On Feb.08.2005 at 07:20 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

what would be on your shopping list?

Dare I repeat myself... a GOOD bookkeeper who knows the design industry, specific state laws and tax requirements.

Don’t start without one, unless you have been trained as such. You don’t want your clients doing design, and you shouldn’t waste your valuable billing and marketing time pursuing an area that requires an expert. It’s not whether you can afford one - you can’t afford not to have one.

...which also means effective set up of manageable time tracking and billing/invoicing/estimating systems.

Are you sure you really wanna do this ;)?

No one has mentioned an obvious one: Clients... in lieu of them, a budget to survive without any for at least three months.

On Feb.08.2005 at 07:33 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Computer on some sort of table that puts it and the keyboard where you want them. Computer specific depend on the sort of work you’d be doing.

Printers. What kind depending on what work you’re going to do.

Paper for the printer(s.)


Chair (good for sitting, not necessarily one that says “ergonomic” on the box but one that fits the sitter.)

A couple of extra chairs for guests.


Internet hookup.

Shelves for, among other things, paper samples that you won’t, of course, buy since you’ll get them for free.

Pantone fan guides. Forget the swatch books.

Several pencils and pens. Paper on a pad or a clipboard.

A ruler or other measuring device.

Software depending on what you’re going to do. CS and Office if you’re just doing print and a bit of internet work. A very few decent fonts. (Make Massimo happy and don’t make typeface collection a goal.) If you’re an in-house design unit for a company with a good identity program you probably need two font families plus any system fonts.

A recycling bin and a trash can.

A white board and a cork board if there are multiple designers who need to post notices to the rest of the crew.

A file cabinet or file box and something with drawer space.

You may also add a digital camera to the list. Depending on the sort of products you deal with it may be worth adding seamless paper and a couple of lights and reflectors if you’ll need to produce your own images fast.

The “within a company” phrase makes me think the following two sets of items may not all be needed:

Any sort of office papers you need: stationery, invoice forms, production-related forms.

Business software (at least Quicken and tax software) if you’re dealing with that.

I can’t think of a book you really need and I’m sitting within six feet of nine hundred or a thousand of them (plus a bunch of magazines and journals.)

Things to make yourself (yourselves) comfortable:

A place to hang your coat.

Speakers for the computer or a radio or CD player if you’re in the position to make as much noise as you’d like.

A small refrigerator if you don’t have some sort of kitchen access.

Something to make the beverage of choice if that applies and you don’t have some sort of kitchen access.

On Feb.08.2005 at 07:50 PM
mahalie’s comment is:

Well, the bare necessities...

High-speed internet access.

Oh, a computer.

A modicum of taste.

A great bookkeeper.

Adobe CS.

Unfortunately I can attest that an LCD screen is not requisite to designing for print. But a girl can dream! Even a printer is icing if you are strictly speaking of necessities. Proofs are always finalized at the printer anyway.

If I could buy anything, well, here are my favorite in-house resources:

Color laser printer - fast and friendly!

Large format scanner (Micron).

An 'extra' printer (ink jet with rear feed access) to shove 'unprintables' through like crazy papers and packaging mock ups.

Slide feeder and slide scanner. (If you've ever had to scan more than a few slides at once without a multiple slide feeder, you know!)

5+ megapixel digital camera. (Even if you out source photography this aids in idea-generation, mockups and capturing textures, etc.)

Pantone set (of course).

I'll take that gian LCD monitor and a Herman Miller chair while you're at it...heck, throw in an iPod to keep to my creative juices flowing!

A sharp, straight paper trimmer.

On Feb.08.2005 at 07:59 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Don’t forget some type of (print and electronic) archival and storage system, not only documenting and protecting your work as you go, but keeping samples accessible and even on display for visitors. Bill your clients for the time and materials it takes to archive their work - it’s a very cheap insurance policy and makes life easy when they come back for reprints or edits a year later (of course they’ll be expecting the job to still be on your computer waiting for their inevitable return).

On Feb.08.2005 at 08:19 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

>what books would you deem essential?

If you're on a tight budget, and you're mostly going to work in CMYK, forget Pantone.

The gamut is limited, and the books/fans too expensive.

A better, less expensive resource for the 4C world is:

Chronicle Books, Process Color Manual

It's a chart of 24,000 CMYK combinations.

On Feb.08.2005 at 10:22 PM
gregor’s comment is:

we're talkin dreamland here folks, not reality:

..the green light to start a design studio and a realistic budget that would allow you to purchase all the necessities for it to function...

let's dream away!

On Feb.08.2005 at 10:59 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

what books would you deem essential?

A book that has broken a lot of barriers for me is “It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be : The World's Best Selling Book” by Paul Arden which has been mentioned in the past here on SU. Norman Potter's “What is a designer” is another resource to draw from.

On Feb.08.2005 at 11:19 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

coffee machine and jamaican blue...

On Feb.08.2005 at 11:31 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

a dart board

the books "how to swim with sharks without being eaten alive" by harvey mackay and "a short guide to a happy life" by anna quinlan

pictures of your pets, or your actual pets

something nearby to make you laugh; in my case it is a life-size cardboard cut-out of a dear friend. we worked together for nine years. when we did, he made me laugh everyday. the life-size cardboard cut-out is a subtle reminder

the numbers you dial everyday nearby, in one consolidated place (or on autodial) so you don't have to search for them the fourteen times a day you need them

an extra umbrella

a good pair of crappy shoes

a safety pin (you never know)

a very thick, well-worn rolodex

On Feb.09.2005 at 12:01 AM
David Young’s comment is:

A biz-dev person to help you get work.

On Feb.09.2005 at 12:01 AM
ian’s comment is:

tools, lots and lots of tools so you can make your own office furniture.

seriously, that's what i'm doing

On Feb.09.2005 at 05:11 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:


The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher.

Lots of paper samples. (yes they are free, but they will keep you from specifying the same old stock all the time.)

A strong heat source. Blood does not flow quickly through a sitting body.


A note on seating. A chair that fits you is more important than price. My desk chair is perfect. Molded plastic, �11 at Ikea.

On Feb.09.2005 at 06:31 AM
Tom B’s comment is:

I was just about to list some very intersting, inspiring books - as Graham has done. But on reflection, you don't really need to have these at your studio.

It's vital to read interesting books all the time: about a wide range of subjects, not just design. But really, how often do you need these books immediately?

No, the sort of books you need to hand are reference books. These tend to be extremely dull but nevertheless extremely useful.

Books about production techniques ('Production for Graphic Designers' by Alan Pipes is quite useful).

Type sample catalogues

Books of logos and trademarks

Dictionaries, Style/usage guides

Software reference books (Perhaps not '...For Dummies'. 'Visual Quickstart' books are good)

Books about paper formats/folding/binding techniques.

Quick reference handbooks to find technical info in a hurry (I use 'The Designer's Lexicon' by Alastair Campbell)

Pantone Swatches

Paper samples

And loads and loads of sketchbooks, pens and pencils

On Feb.09.2005 at 08:33 AM
steve’s comment is:

the important stuff at Armins new Design Shop:

a really hot ex-model intern, a wall of xservers - mostly for decoration, a pool (billiard) table, a nice european sports car to meet clients in, nice suits to match, a few segway's to race around the compound in.

The extra's:

I guess also the basic's like a pencil, some sketch pads, a computer, maybe some software, blah blah.

On Feb.09.2005 at 09:16 AM
Zoelle’s comment is:

tools, lots and lots of tools so you can make your own office furniture.

I built my desk to suit me. It is a two level corner desk. I made my own because I found it difficult to find a low corner style desk with beveled edges and ease of portability. Harsh 90� edges on desks are painful if long hours are spent resting on them.

A high quality comfortable chair. I recommend the Freedom Chair. Your chair may be the most used piece of equipment that you buy that has the greatest impact on your comfort. (You can also depreciate your expensive chair on your taxes)

A quality LCD is also high on my list. When I had a CRT I was able to use it as a rearview mirror of sorts due to the tremendous amount of reflected light it cast. My LCD is glare free. The more comfortable I am, the more productive and alert I am.

New paint on the walls. A crisp new paint job does wonders for relaxing the mind and makes a good impression on clients. I recommend a light neutral gray in an eggshell finish. Trendy colors may look cool, but the reflected light and color in your peripheral vision may alter your perception of colors used on projects. Save trendy for the furniture and the artwork on the walls.

Comfortable non-florescent lighting in work areas and an area with fluorescents to test out the look of designs which will be sold under fluorescents.

I’m surprised no one mentioned Microsoft Office as necessary software. Maybe that’s because we are supposed to be dreaming.

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:08 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Well, most of the facilities and books and technology bits I'd need to start a studio are already listed above.

So, my remaining 'most important part of starting a studio': a partner who inspires and challenges me, for whom I do the same. If I start a studio, I won't do it alone.

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:12 AM
Alan’s comment is:

I actually did this one... Set up a design shop within a larger company. When I walked in the door there was just a sad little PC with a 15" monitor sitting on my desk. Here's what I started with:

Power Mac g4

Cinema Display

wacom tablet

Adobe Creative Suite



MS Office suite

HP Designjet 20ps (since retired in favor of the Xerox 7750dn)

X-acto knife

cutting matt

metal ruler

plastic triangle

small cardboard spray booth

spray mount

black boards

Pantone books

I've got a more robust studio now, but this is what I started with.

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:15 AM
Tom B’s comment is:

Coffee machine! Vital

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:19 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Don't shoot me for adding this:

Vector clip art.

When you need the outline of Iraq and the flag of Zimbawe and a thousand other things you bloody well don't want to be parked in your comfy chair at midnight drawing them yourself. Save your FreeHand skills for something important.

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:23 AM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

I didn't see it mentioned (I may have overlooked it)...

For those mock-ups that the client can't visualize, or that the printer needs for reference:

- an X-acto knife,

- blades (lots, ironically enough paper dulls blades faster than anything else)

- a self-healing cutting mat

- a paper cutter

- some spray mount.

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:25 AM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

I see Alan posted as I was typing up my list.

One more thing though: a surface to do all the mocking-up on; big enough to place everything on, and high enough not to make your back suffer..

On Feb.09.2005 at 10:28 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

I’m surprised to see just the one iPod reference. Music is great to set the pace, tone, mood - join the record club and get 12 cds for a penny, or Napster for that matter. Whatever moves you - some sweet grooves can take you to that creative place and keep you there.

A solution that requires less cd / music changing is better for productivity and a random mix keeps the crew happy. Rock on.

Inserting Moby > Play to start my day...

On Feb.09.2005 at 11:49 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

No studio is complete without a huge garbage can and a broom to sweep up all the ideas left on the cutting room floor.....after that I'd ask for a window, a window to anywhere to daydream...watch clouds...hear birds...

On Feb.09.2005 at 12:33 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

According to my long suffering wife and partner:

Ya needs the ASS. 'Cause the Ass goes in the chair. The more ya puts the Ass in the chair, the mores you gets done.

On Feb.09.2005 at 01:14 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

I had the privilege of working at an in-house start-up creative department. Everyone knows the software, hardware, supplies, and basics needed. Get your software somewhat up to date so at least you can exchange files with vendors and others.

But, what you really need is good people. Because at the end of the day, it won't matter if you're on a new G5 or a three-year-old G4 if the work isn't good and the whole of your team doesn't jive. Look for synergy.

I had this at the first job I held. I doubt anything will ever come close to that experience, but you can bet big money that if ever I were starting something up in-house, the people would be my biggest concern.

On Feb.09.2005 at 02:17 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Just some additions/duplicates:

You need a nice portfolio case, something you can take to presentations and not be embarrassed to carry.

You still need a fax machine and a copier.

And when you're ready, you need a good phone system that's multi-line, and can forward to your cell if necessary. Good phone systems are costly — and can run in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $30,000 for an office of 5-15. No joke. Even used systems are $5K+.

Along w/ that, you need a receptionist, or someone to answer the phone at all times. Don't send people into a phone tree — nothing is worse for new business.

You need a good conference table, close to a wall where you can pin things up. As big as you can fit.

And I concur w/ everyone else, you need good task chairs. Don't do Ikea or Office Depot. Accept nothing less than real, professional task chairs from Steelcase, Knoll, or Herman Miller. You can buy their low-end chairs, and it will be better than the most expensive chair at Ikea. Knoll has a SoHo line that's around $300, and is available in hundreds of fabrics.

On Feb.09.2005 at 02:46 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

I'm serious. My chair cost �11 at Ikea. It's molded plastic. I sit in it for hours on end with no fatigue, no pain, no wallet ache. It doesn't matter how much it costs. It matters how it fits you.

On Feb.09.2005 at 03:13 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I think Mark’s wife, Andrew, and Jeff got it nailed. Good people (person?) who can do good work. The question seemed to be about an in-house operation starting for a company so accountants and receptionists are probably irrelevant.

Nobody [see already famous, etc. below for possible exception] is starting a design firm by hiring five designers and a receptionist/office manager.

Nobody with a one- or two-person operation needs a $30K or even a $5K phone system. A copier? Maybe, but if you make very few copies the space savings alone will be worth the scan/print time. If most of what you do is digital then faxing out of your computer makes sense.

If the question is “What would I buy if money were no object?” then a lap pool and a weight room would be nice. How about a volleyball court? And a chef so people don’t have to leave for lunch.

If someone is starting a design firm and isn’t a group of already-famous and well-to-do designers with great backing and/or a willingness to invest a lot of their own money then anyone taking most of the advice on this thread will be broke in no time and will see all the big-time design dreams dashed. Why not just buy drugs and alcohol now while you still have the money?

On Feb.09.2005 at 03:19 PM
szkat’s comment is:

Basically, you have nothing... except the green light to start a design studio and a realistic budget that would allow you to purchase all the necessities for it to function... If you could buy anything you wanted — skipping the luxuries — what would be on your shopping list?

now where do the lap pools and drugs fit in?

really, the pipe dream is to have all up-to-date software and hardware, plenty of space to have it, and some good people to make good use of it.

the reality is that people are cranky, my POS ViewSonic monitor is blurry in the middle, and my cubicle is awkwardly set up. my elbows always feel like they're in the wrong place, and my chair is old and came with stains on it. lovely.

absolute essentials to be successful for in-house, i believe: have some tactile things around (i.e. koosh balls) and keep the conversation going. make sure people feel playful and motivated. even good people can get really, really bored. if you can, have a nice beat up old couch. and a fooseball table. encourage people to do mock projects, like a poster for their favorite charity, and give them some time to do it. i guess my biggest luxury item would be time to explore your ideas and get comfortable with the co-workers.

On Feb.09.2005 at 03:47 PM
jc’s comment is:

Well, first get a stat camera, oops, wait, wrong century.

well, then get get a waxer, oops

a drafting arm is great attached to your drawing board, oops

maybe a box of 100 #10 xacto blades, oops

get some good suppliers like a typehouse, airbrusher, negative retoucher, oops,

On Feb.09.2005 at 06:53 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

maybe a box of 100 #10 xacto blades, oops

I use xacto blades all the time. Get the box, you'll never know when you need one.

As for a comfortable chair, I bought a Caper chair from Design Within Reach. I'm sure the multi-task version with fabric seat is more comfortable, but this one has done ok by me.

Paper samples are great. And free. I ordered a full set from two different reps and got a perfect mix and not a lot of duplicates. It was very helpful when my client asked for a number of different coated stocks to use in their print system and I didn't have to make stuff up.

Buy the best computer you can afford. I had a 5 year-old G4 that was doing great until OS X and Illustrator CS came out. That pretty much finished it, but until then it had done the job splendidly. I just bought a dual 2ghz G5 and it rocks. I retired my 13-year old monitor for a 23" flat screen. I don't imagine I'll need anything for several years now.

Save some money for self-promotion. I'm just discovering this now. It's worth it and I wish I'd done it earlier.

Get a furry cat this will sit on your desk and keep you company. They're usually free from a shelter.

On Feb.09.2005 at 07:35 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Most things have already been mentioned, except perhaps...

A good stereo or boombox. If you're in a more public space also get a high-quality set of headphones.

Toons are always required in a happy, inspirational work environment, IMHO.

On Feb.09.2005 at 08:43 PM
Jeff’s comment is:

I'm surprised (horrified, actually) that no one has even mentioned color management tools. A nice low-end spectrophotometer like the Gretag eye-one would be great for calibrating monitors and building ICC profiles for in-house inkjets and color laser printers. I think this is rather necessary in the design world we live now, where our projects get printed 1000 miles away and the client won't pony up for a match print.

Building your own profiles forces you to better understand what all those SWOP profiles that Adobe installs.

On Feb.10.2005 at 12:54 AM
Mitch’s comment is:

all you really NEED is inspiration, a pen (or pencil), and a sketchbook.

but all that other stuff does come in handy.

On Feb.10.2005 at 01:50 AM
Héctor Mu�oz Huerta’s comment is:

I would love to have huge prints on the walls of great classic type jewels like Gutembergs Bible, Aldo's Hypnerotomachia, Bodoni's Manuale Tipogr�fico, Baskerville's Virgil, Roger's Lectern Bible, etc...

You need a big and long table attached to a wall with a window and a comfortable couch to sit and think while relaxing. Felt tip markers are great for scribling.

You need a window with a nice view, it’s horrible to work all day in closed rooms staring either to the screen or to the wall.

A big and low cost inkjet printer is a great tool

On Feb.10.2005 at 03:43 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

I'm surprised (horrified, actually) that no one has even mentioned color management tools...(snip)...and the client won't pony up for a match print.

This is the curse of technology, where it forces us to become "experts" in too many different areas. Matchprints are essential, to me, for a successful color print job (unless it's solely PMS colors, which is why we have swatchbooks). Clients unwilling to pay for this simply need to be made aware of the implications of not proofing and that they take on the responsibility if they are unhappy with the results.

So to add to the list of items one needs when forming a design studio, I'd add "backbone" when it comes to dealing with hard-headed clients. Because clients pay us the money, we often take the approach that we must do everything to please them. We are the ones bringing the wealth of design and production experience to the table.

The converse of this is the ability to own up to your own mistakes. It sucks — I've been there — but it's the right and ethical thing to do.

On Feb.10.2005 at 08:36 AM
andy’s comment is:

something alive is essential. right now my production manager and secretary are four legged and furry.

also, the best stereo you can buy, and have a 50 disc (or ipod) all hooked up with appropriate "i just came back from the worst meeting of my life and hate the world music" as well as some good T.S. Monk, it automatically makes you look cool.

On Feb.10.2005 at 11:21 AM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

There's something else I'd like to add: preparation to sell yourself.

Even though you're in-house, do not assume that business will just fall in your lap. There will be times (and this will cycle) when your in-house group will be looked at closely and evaluated for its relevancy and value, no matter how good you really are. I spent 2 years in-house and we went through this stage several times.

On Feb.10.2005 at 12:12 PM
szkat’s comment is:

yeah, big ditto on that. we're going through that right now - i'm trying to launch our group into the healthcare sector. the architects and engineers don't want to touch it - hospitals are a nightmare to build - but it's an absolutely natural (and often necessary on the client end) fit for our wayfinding department. we were able to sit down with some business dev. people and really open their eyes to the possible strengths that exist is us that might not be applicable to any other parts of the company.

On Feb.10.2005 at 01:06 PM
Ben Weeks’s comment is:

To be a designer you must have:

A $60 haircut

Shiney square toed shoes

A black turtleneck.

Thats all. You are a designer now. Congratulations.

(To be an uber designer see above and add prada.)

On Feb.10.2005 at 02:26 PM
heather’s comment is:

"pictures of your pets, or your actual pets"

debbie, love this. my dream is to open my own shop so that i can work with my dog at my feet. nothing is better.

plants are a must

big windows

a good stereo

i didn't see this mentioned: good lighting! flourescents just won't do. headaches... and everything you print looks horrible with bad lighting.

On Feb.10.2005 at 02:53 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Why not just buy drugs and alcohol now while you still have the money?

Gunnar, of course you have to be smart and prudent about your spending. No one is suggesting that you must spend $30K on a phone system when you're starting out. Nor do you need an office space or a web conference phone.

But eventually, when a firm grows in size to 5 or 10, along with business to support the overhead — these things become a necessity for business. They aren't superflous luxuries, nor are they only tools of the rich and famous, as you've suggested.

A good strategy that we employed at my office was to set out 10% of gross billings to a tech/software/furniture fund. We always tried to spend accordingly, based on a list of priorities that we reviewed monthly. Also keep in mind that the majority of that 10% expenditure was also tax-deductible expenses.

On Feb.10.2005 at 03:30 PM
Valon’s comment is:

O man you already know I love this post:

Here's my rundown:

Human Resource (minimum)

- Two good designers who complement and don’t compete with one another.

- One reliable intern.

- Accountant (a must !!!)

- Lawyer (you don't have to get one...just talk to few in the area and keep their business card - you never know)


- No more than 600 square feet

- One window minimum


- Two top of the line Macs (for design & development)

- One large format inkjet (13x19) Epson 1280 (for final proofs)

- One laser printer for quick proofs and other printed materials HP (2250)

- External Harddrive for backing up data (300MB min — Maxtor)

- Canon Rebel Digital Camera

- Scanner


- Cable connection

- Three multi-line phones


- Adobe Family

- Macromedia Family

- Quick Books Pro

- Clients and Profits

- Microsoft Office


- 4 desks:

Two for computers

One for Printers + Scanner

One for Cutting

(all IKEA)

- 3 chairs

- One sofa

- Conference table with 4 chairs

- Stand for books and other printed materials

Books & Magazines

- Business Books/Magazines

- Design Books/Magazines

- Self-help Books


- Radio (Tivoli)

- Small fridge

- Cutting Board

- White Board



- Art Directors Club

- Local Chamber of Commerce

- Other networking groups


- Luck...not to worry though cuz...Luck favors the Bold — or something like that.

You should be ok with this list for under $10,000.00 (+/- $1000.00)

Whatever I left out it's probably a luxury...

On Feb.10.2005 at 05:12 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

>If you're on a tight budget... forget Pantone.

I really shouldn't have qualified and limited my statement.

So let me rephrase...

If you are working in CMYK, don't use Pantone as a color reference. Get a copy of the Process Color Manual and keep it close. I used to keep the Pantone to Process fan within arms reach. Then I discovered that I could extend my color range, make better color choices, and manage color results better by selecting my own CMYK mix from the PCM chart.

If you choose to worship Pantone and forsake my CMYK advice that's fine.

And may your blues be forever muddy.

On Feb.11.2005 at 11:51 AM
alex b. rodovitch’s comment is:

no. 2 pencil

pad of paper

On Feb.11.2005 at 11:54 AM
Armin V. Eet’s comment is:

Cool alias…

On Feb.11.2005 at 11:57 AM
ps’s comment is:

how about just starting and getting all the stuff later.

it can work. and if it doesn't -- at least you have not spent all your money. that's what local bars are for.

On Feb.11.2005 at 12:03 PM
Valon’s comment is:

how about just starting and getting all the stuff later.

...you have to plan to get somewhere.

also to make money you have to spend money...

On Feb.11.2005 at 12:20 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

pantone announced the new colors for spring today.

moroccan blue and ginger brown are the top hues.

On Feb.11.2005 at 01:15 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Enjoy your Ikea chair Jeff. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong w/ it — just pointing out that there's some better, yet affordable options out there. And they're often the original designs that Ikea chairs are based on — so why buy the imitation when you can get the original?

I have lots of stuff from Ikea too — bookshelves, file cabinets, a desk, lamps. The stuff is great. Not everything has to be from DWR.

On Feb.14.2005 at 02:00 PM
Brad Brooks’s comment is:

An ability to draw. Really. If you can't draw, forget it. All the Macs and Aeron chairs in the world won't help you.

On Feb.15.2005 at 07:44 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Brad, I'm afraid I must take issue with your statement. The abiltity to draw is highly valuable, but it is not essential. Our beloved host & the creator of this site Mr Vit has, I believe, or more than one occasion confessed his lack of drawing ability, yet he has somehow managed to become an excellent & successful graphic designer. Perhaps you were aiming more at the ability to compose visually, something that is indeed essential to a good designer. However, I don't see the need to restrict the method. Pencil & paper work very well, but so do the computer, digital snapshots & the canvas of the mind. And if you really need to draw a picture you can always hire an illustrator.


Tan, I will continue to enjoy my chair. Thanks.

On Feb.15.2005 at 01:36 PM
Mr. Vit’s comment is:

True. I can't draw. Would I like to be able to draw? Sure. I would maim to be able to draw photo roughs, or illutsrate animals for a logo that would require the illustration of an animal, or whatever else it is that one can do with drawing skills. But you know what? I'm a killer with a mouse. Killer.

Seriously. It's just a matter of making up for one's weaknesses.

And thanks Jeff!

On Feb.15.2005 at 01:50 PM
Valon’s comment is:

Hey, Armin...so who did those cute birds? They weren't done straight from Illustrator were they?

On Feb.16.2005 at 06:41 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Valon, two of them, and I can't remember which two, were taken from one of those Dover books, the rest were done in Illustrator based on those first two…

On Feb.16.2005 at 10:51 PM
Valon’s comment is:

I'm a killer with a mouse. Killer.

Yea man...that's some skillzz right there. I know some people who can do realistic looking things in illustrator, but miniatures like this go a long way.

On Feb.17.2005 at 02:51 PM
Aaren’s comment is:

Okay, I didn't read all the comments but here is my opinion.

I (like many designers and raccoons) am attracted to shiny objects, but contrary to my design professor's beliefs you don't need a G5 with a 30" monitor, surround sound, and a lightening quick internet connection. Tools are great, but they don't have to be the newest and the brightest. In the end you need a client/ a reason to communicate and an idea, because in the end if your idea isn't solid it doesn't matter if you have every gizmo on earth the work will still be unforgetable and nothing short of CRAP!

On Feb.18.2005 at 06:02 PM