Studio & Entrepreneurship – Week 4: Project Plans & Communication

Week 4 Lecture & Resources


Business Plans: Approaches and Advice for a Design Business

I found some useful resources on the Business Gateway website on preparing a business plan, including a template to use as a basis and a guide which breaks it down into the different elements they recommend including when you write a plan for a business, be it an existing one or a prospective one.

Key elements to include in a business plan:

  1. An executive summary, which is a kind of “elevator pitch,” summing up the main points
  2. Details about the business, products/services offered and the target market
  3. Goals and aims for the business
  4. Market and competitor analysis
  5. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOT analysis)
  6. Details on where and how you will promote and market your products/services in order to generate sales
  7. Details on how the business will operate (e.g. facilities, equipment, staff, suppliers, technologies, etc.)
  8. Costs, pricing and financial planning
  9. Legal considerations
  10. Risks

Business Relationships and Communication

Sage advice from the Digital Designer’s Bible
I definitely feel this advice is relevant whether you’re a freelancer or not.

RIBA Plan of Work

Below is the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work, which sets out the recommended stages of an architectural project, described as “the definitive design and process management tool for the UK construction industry.” (RIBA 2020)

It’s a very detailed guide with information on what needs to happen at each stage of a project, and lays out a very structured approach. Many of the aspects covered in the Plan of Work can also be applied to working on a graphic design project.

Workshop Challenge

Draft Business Plan for Duke Street Designs

Elevator Pitch/Executive Summary

Cat McLaughlin is an independent designer based in Scotland, with a background in textile design and interactive media. As Duke Street Design, she brings together these influences and her decade of graphic design experience to offer a bespoke and multi-disciplinary approach to creative projects, from the digital to the tangible – everything from eye-catching posters and album artwork to tailor made brand design, print advertising and beyond.

Rationale for the name

I chose the name Duke Street Design, partly because it’s the name of the street where my business ideas started to galvanise, and partly because it’s got a nice rhythm to it. It’s also a lot easier to spell than my surname! In theory it could additionally allow for future growth if I decided to branch out and hire other people.


Cat McLaughlin is a designer with a broad range of experience across different design disciplines, including interactive media, digital & web design, branding and printed graphics. She has a BA Hons in Textile Design and has worked professionally as a graphic designer for the last decade in a variety of freelance, agency and in-house roles. She also has experience of running her own business, as she started her own knitwear accessories label, WildCat Designs, in 2005 and has sold her creations worldwide. Her versatility as a designer, adaptability and ability to solve problems creatively is key to her success.

USP: What makes Duke Street Design unique?

– A breadth of design knowledge under one roof.
– A personal touch is at the heart of everything Duke Street Design does, working closely with clients and collaborators to foster relationships.
– A multi-disciplinary approach means Duke Street Design can be as versatile as the needs of a project.
– Agility as a sole trader and the ability to adapt to cater for a wide range of creative needs.

Ethos and Values

  • Transparency, clarity & honesty
  • Integrity
  • Personal approach (working directly with clients)
  • Working with clients to create something that genuinely works for them and actually meets the client’s needs
  • Conscientious approach to design, always considering ways to reduce impact on the environment and the most effective way to use resources wherever possible
  • Good design doesn’t need to cost the earth (literally + figuratively!)

Services offered

  • Brand identity & logo development
  • Design for print
  • Design for web, digital & interactive media
  • Design consultancy/advice

Products I want to make

  • Printed t-shirts & apparel
  • Printed tote bags
  • Printed homewares (e.g. tea towels with an alternative slant, cushion covers, etc.)
  • Art prints (digital art, mixed media)
  • Greetings cards

Projects I would *love* to work on:

  • Graphic designs for music (e.g. album artwork, video graphics, animation, imagery and posters)
  • Brand identity + logo development
  • Design projects for charitable & not-for-profit orgs
  • Self-initiated apparel and other printed textiles

Clients I want to work with:

  • Creatives who run their own small business (e.g. artists, jewellers, textile/fashion designers, ceramicists, printmakers, designer-makers)
  • Bands & musicians
  • Charities & organisations that care about sustainability and minimising our collective impact on the environment
  • Mental health charities & organisations
  • Charities & not-for-profit organisations in general
  • Small, independent businesses


Stages of a project:

1. Discovery

Fact-finding, exploring the client’s niche, target audience and understanding their place within the market. Asking questions to gain knowledge about the client and the services/products they offer in order to see how best to help them realise a project.

2. Development of design concepts

Initial designs & ideas are developed to meet the brief.

3.Refinement of designs

4. Delivery of approved designs

Where will the business operate from/be based?

Initially, my vision is to run Duke Street Design from my home, to keep overhead costs as low as possible. I feel this is quite realistic as I have previously managed to run my textiles business from home.

In the future, I would definitely hope to reach a stage where I could look into taking on a studio space from which to work, ideally in a location where I could regularly interact with other creative businesses and individuals. I feel this would be hugely beneficial in terms of networking and collaboration, as well as being a nurturing environment that is inspiring and conducive to generating ideas.

SWOT Analysis


– Versatile skillset and adaptability
– Ability to learn new skills quickly
– Previous experience of running my own business as a sole trader
– Strong communication skills & experience of working with a wide range of stakeholders
– Ability to manage multiple projects concurrently
– Being independent means I can be agile, without needing to consult a hierarchy of people within an organisation, and I have the freedom to change my approach as needed


– May not be able to take on as much work as I would like to, due to being a solo outfit


– Growing my network through word of mouth, social media and in-person networking
– Having a dual stream of potential income (products as well as client work)
– Collaboration opportunities with other creatives
– Using my existing network to explore business opportunities
– Looking at ways of viably producing quantities of products in order to explore wholesale and having shops/galleries stock my work (I have some experience of doing this on a small scale from running WildCat Designs)


– Competitors: design agencies offering a one-stop-shop service
– Competitors: other creatives making similar printed products
– The ongoing pandemic is causing consumers to be more cautious with their spending

Earlier draft version

Initial draft – click to view as a PDF.

Reflection on the week

This has been a useful exercise in exploring the possibilities around developing my creative practice, in terms of a viable business. I feel there is definitely more research needed, and I would benefit from narrowing down the specifics of my offering and the type of work I want to do in the future.

In the past I have viewed my varied work history across multiple creative disciplines negatively, but I now see that it can actually be an advantage, and gives me a unique perspective/approach.

I also deliberately chose to allow room for my business to grow and encourage the diverse types of work that will continue to keep things interesting for me as an individual.


Business Gateway. 2018. ‘Working on a business plan.’ Available at [accessed 31/05/2021]

Business Gateway. 2020. ‘Creative Industries – Market Reports.’ Available at [accessed 31/05/2021]

CAMPBELL, Alastair and DABBS, Alistair. 2004. The Digital Designer’s Bible: The ultimate route map to stress-free best working practice for print and web designers. Lewes, East Sussex: Ilex.

Etsy. 2021. ‘Carbon-Offset Delivery and Packaging: Delivering a world of good.’ Available at [accessed 24/09/2021]

Etsy. 2021. ‘Our House Rules: Fees & Payments Policy.’ Available at [accessed 26/09/2021]

Etsy. 2021. ‘Seller Handbook.’ Available at [accessed 26/09/2021]

Freelancing Females. ‘Freelance Rate Sheet.’ Available at [accessed 19/09/2021]

Hiscox. 2021. ‘Business insurance for sole traders.’ Available at [accessed 20/06/2021]

Indie Roller. 2021. ‘Indie Roller Membership.’ Available at [26/09/2021]

PERKINS, Shel. November 2005. ‘Business Planning: Part One.’ AIGA. Available at [accessed 02/07/2021]

RIBA. 2020. RIBA Plan of Work 2020 Overview. London: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

RIBA. 2021. ‘RIBA Plan of Work.’ Available at [accessed 20/06/2021]

Stay Home Club. 2021. Available at [accessed 02/10/2021]

Teemill. Available at [accessed 02/10/2021]

The Design Trust. 2021. ‘How much should I spend on marketing?
8 questions to set your crafts or design marketing budget.’ Available at [accessed 06/10/2021]

Thirteen Supply Co. Available at [accessed 02/10/2021]