Can a 3D printer assist me visually communicate more effectively?

3D Printing

Lecture Notes:

  • Prototyping – don’t go to the ‘nth’ degree
  • PRO TIP: Checkout L@G in the readings sections, it is loaded with information.
  • Checkout the WANHAO (Uni Machines) user manual – Funlab Machines
  • Fusion has videos online for training.
  • So what is different with 3D over the Laser, as they both create designs:
    • 3D Printing is additive manufacturing
    • Laser Printing is subtractive manufacturing
    • CNC Router is also subtractive manufacturing
  • Important Terms to remember:
    • FFF – Free Form Fabrication
    • FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
    • They basically mean or refer to the same thing – a hot glue gun on a drill press but with a lot more precision.
  • When you create your 3D printed object, think what it will need to be supported in the printing process, as the printer can not start on an area without a base. This means sometimes you will have to spacially rethink how you object is orientated for print.

The Golden Ratio:

Previously I have learnt about the golden ration in my photographic and drawing studies, and modelling in 3D is just as important. It was time for a refresher, so I found the math again….

“In 1860 German physicist and psychologist Gustav Theodor Fechner proposed that a simple ratio, an irrational number defines the balance in nature. The Golden Ratio! Fechner’s experiment was simplified: ten rectangles varying in their length-to-width ratios were placed in front of a subject, who was asked to select the most pleasing one. The results showed that the most favoured choice was the “Golden Rectangle” (with ratio 1.618).”



And then some examples where nature uses this ratio:

And where man has copied the use of this ratio:

Notes on the Process:

STL – File for Printing – available to download on the internet

Slicing – What has to happen to the STL to make it print in layers

Gcode – Export file for the 3D Printer to print the file – save on Micro SD Card

Filament – PLA is made from cornstarch and is stiff, ABS is flexible

Brim – Layer to run the project on

Shell Thickness – 1.2 (3 x the width of the Nozzle Tip – WANHAO is 0.4)

Extruder – The Brass nipple (nozzle) is at 200-240deg

Print speed – 50 – Any faster and you get a shitty output.

PRO TIP: If you want to take a 3D image of something, use an Xbox Connect 360.



Q. How is this technology facilitated within your industry/your discipline?

There is an excellent article on how the use of 3D printing was used by students to create 3D printed typography that fits in with the lego system.

Playing with model trains and not being able to get all the parts, along with old hot wheels cars, the idea of being to put little people inside the cars or being able to get a new bonnet or wheel sounds pretty awesome to me. In our industry, though being able to prototype at scale an extruded corporate logo would be a huge advantage from a sales point. The other option is to 3D print merchandise for the company so they need a prototype of a MOQ of just one, where it is very expensive from the overseas supplier, this could save heaps of times and arguments in the office over what will work.

Q. What are the possible future for this technology?

I think we are only seeing the start of 3D printing and larger machines (not home based) is going to be the future. The technology has (and still is) going through its gimmick phase and now that printers have dropped in price point, it is going to be even easier to create home projects, be able to replace parts for machines that no longer being serviced by their manufacturers.

In reference to design, I think product and interior designers will have great use for 3D printed materials as they could be used to custom make a shape/block/shelf etc, that fits an obtuse or acute angle that would not be normally available for sale. The filament/substrate of the object could then be decorated with other materials to make it not look like the fantastic plastic era of the 60’s & 70’s.

As for visual communicators, long-lost type block could be recreated quickly for use in letterpress. Adds of old could be scanned in 2D and given height so they could be applied to a sort, so then they could be used in analogue projects. A sort of fusion of old and new.


Some other projects that inspire me:

So how does using a Laser Cutter assist me as a Graphic Designer?

The Laser Cutter

Lecture Notes:

  • Prototyping – don’t go to the ‘nth’ degree
  • PRO TIP: Checkout the Inkscape tutorials that are online.
  • How the Laser works – the laser is actually at the back of the machine, compressed air follows the laser and blows out the cut. Everything in the laser is based on mirrors.
  • Etching – depends on the materials and how the beam is set – you choose whether you etch around to emboss or etch only your design to deboss.
  • PRO TIP: Use cardboard until the cows come home
    • It decays easily
    • prototyping an idea is quick
    • It is relatively cheap or free – the Uni has plenty of stock
  • When designing an acrylic structure for laser cutting, make sure that:
    • You round the corners.
    • Be aware that it cracks easily – dont go to fine.
    • On a router, acrylic is a pain in the arse.
  • When designing with plywood
    • Remember that it is layered peace of ply (timber) going in different directions
    • The glue/resin to keep the ply wood together can smell toxic when cut.
    • You can’t cut marina ply on this Trotec Laser
    • Remember Ply is flexible
      • Play with organic shapes
      • Look at Tessolating – Veroni Patterns
  • When you prototype in cardboard, thickness is essential for locking.
  • Try to do nesting – it wastes less material and stacks nice.
  • PRO TIP: Check out Laser Origami on learning at Griffith

Follow the Process:

  1. Generate idea
  2. Sketch it Out
  3. Create Cad Model – Adobe Illustrator/Fusion 360
  4. 2D Presentation
  5. Laser cutter setup – Trotec Job Control
  6. Cutting time – you can not leave the laser unattended
  7. Post Production time – fitting pieces together, sanding, glueing, painting etc.

Notes on the Process:

We were challenged for the first week to make a 3D mobile phone holder, my teammate and I took a more critical approach, where others in the class took a more artist approach. It was very interesting to see the projects come to life so quickly on the laser cutter and being able to push them out of cardboard and assemble.

We obviously had problems with our joins (being 3mm cardboard and it flexing), we thought too small and would need to refine out process to test and improve. It was a good learning curve that in the first instance not to be too critical. I think the goal is to come up with an idea, ROUGH PROTOTYPE IT FIRST, and then refine. We started by being too refined like we only ever had one chance at this and as such, things were too tight and assembling (doing it in 3D) caused problems we did not think when using Adobe Illustrator in 2D.





This is our first draft of making our mobile phone holder. It didn’t sort of work and was too tight.


Q. How is this technology facilitated within your industry/your discipline?

Currently, there are a number of printers in Brisbane that have started using laser cutting as a way of extending the reach of visual communication. From sales stands where items are made from plywood and cardboard to containers for annual reports and even the boxes to carry your new furry pet home in. These are applications that use a laser cutter in-house to speed up the manufacturing process of design and visual communication.

There is a great article on AP Lazer that shows crafty uses for a laser cutter, it is worth a look:  (Photos from the article are above).

I paid for the use of the laser cutter at the local business Colour Chiefs to etch into the cover of my artist book, as well as to have accurate holes cut and screw heads recessed into plywood. I find the use of the laser cutter in visually communicating a brand or project is just getting started, as it is not really mainstream yet but is definitely on its way.

Below are some examples from colour chiefs, my own work and what I have found online. You can see the variety of uses for a laser cutter abound, however the burn marks (from cutting or etching) with the laser can be considered unsightly, so this is where substrate printing comes in handy, or the product can be painted over once made.





















Q. What are the possible future for this technology?

Currently, we are seeing flatbed laser cutters, what if laser cutting went like 3D printing and could etch and whittle out a block of a substrate (such as wood, plastic or cardboard)? We currently cant 3D print wood, and are limited to plastic, so would the be an alternative to a CNC router?

As seen in the video below, using the CNC laser cutter in a locked position and rotating the substrates, intricate cuts can be obtained which gives the laser cutter technical uses more suited to engineering and less to visual communication.

Some other pieces that inspire me

I was tasked yesterday to gather imagery that reflects and represents the view off modernity in today’s society.

With an understanding of Modernism, I thought I had this covered but Modernity is the overwhelming concept and Modernism was just the term applied to the artistic albeit creative movement that was inspired under Modernity.

The list of the 6 images are as follow: 1. Rapid and continual change, 2. Unceasing accelerated production, 3. A transformed human being, 4. The dominance of the secular, 5. Global inequality, 6. Popular culture that speaks to post-modernity. With a lot of these topics being close to my heart and with reflection, part of my artist book, I have to say I was surprised with how these topics have be represented in a single image.

As usual, I benchmarked 6 images for each topic and then chose the one that I thought best represents my interpretation of how the negative and positive impacts of Modernity has affected the world.

1. Rapid and continual change

We have evolved over many thousands of years but every so rapidly in the last 500, from Apes to over sharers.

We have evolved over many thousands of years but every so rapidly in the last 500, from Apes to over sharers. [Original source]

2. Unceasing accelerated production

We continue to produce at a rate which will see the extinction of our species, the planet will live on but the animal human will be no more.

We continue to produce at a rate which will see the extinction of our species, the planet will live on but the animal human will be no more. [Original source]

3. A transformed human being

We are a product of capitalism in the western world. We have had our nations categorised into either Underdeveloped, Developing or Developed all based on Eurocentric views - what about the culture of the human not the culture of capitalism and consumerism?

We are a product of capitalism in the western world. We have had our nations categorised into either Underdeveloped, Developing or Developed all based on Eurocentric views – what about the culture of the human not the culture of capitalism and consumerism? [Original source]

4. The dominance of the secular

Why the views of a culture different to our own make their people an outcast? In Australia our forefathers committed genocide on the Aboriginal people who inhabited Australia. Why does the developed world of the west insist on pushing their values on the east?

Why the views of a culture different to our own make their people an outcast? In Australia our forefathers committed genocide on the Aboriginal people who inhabited Australia. Why does the developed world of the west insist on pushing their values on the east? [Original source]

5. Global inequality

Again, another reflection expressed in my artist book - 'The only ones to disagree are millionaires'. Corporate greed is so huge, we are seeing companies saying that the access to water should not be a human right?

Again, another reflection expressed in my artist book – ‘The only ones to disagree are millionaires’. Corporate greed is so huge, we are seeing companies saying that the access to water should not be a human right? Original source

6. Popular culture that speaks to post-modernity

I am seeing that the steering of Post-Modernity is to correct the errors of Modernity. We don't live in a Utopian society, Modernity has failed, it is up to every individual to do anything they can to make society right, even if they think it is impossible.

I am seeing that the steering of Post-Modernity is to correct the errors of Modernity. We don’t live in a Utopian society, Modernity has failed, it is up to every individual to do anything they can to make society right, even if they think it is impossible. [Original source]

I know that some people may see this as a more radical view of thinking, but really it isn’t and is supported in many current text books.

All images have been sourced from the web and I acknowledge that they are not my own, and have hyperlinks to take you to the original location of the image.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.03.59 pm Lao Tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Designers with ideas for products that go behind the sphere of print and digital media are faced with many challenges. Being a successful entrepreneur (or business owner) requires many skills. Are entrepreneurial skills taught in design school or just learnt on the job? Are you born with these skills or are they just learnt? What are the barriers that stop designers from building concrete products and launching them to the world? What skills do designers need to succeed – is it faith, networking, funding or a combination of all of these items. We know that all creatives are not the same, so is there a one rule that fits all scenario or not?

The leap of faith

Design schools and schools in general teach disciplines and skills in relation to the course curriculum, however they don’t teach students to be entrepreneurial. Taking an idea further and making it into a marketable product is down the scary and often fought with danger road of the inventor, not a designer. Designers normally only take the concept from the brief stage and make it a visual solution to the brief, however it is quite possible for designers young and old to break the chains of the desk and become entrepreneurs. Heller (2011) states that two forces – will and intelligence –  must be fused in order to generate enough energy to take the entrepreneurial plunge and it’s not always easy. (Heller 2011, 9) and I could not agree more. I believe that with designers, it is a matter of will, as designers would not succeed if they did not have latter. It is up to the designer to take it to the next level and get the wheels in motion and not be afraid at asking for a little help on their first attempt.

Branson (2015) believes the fresh uncorrupted mind of the design graduate is an ideal place for this. They have not been instilled in the traditional design studio model so they can ‘imagine’ a design business that is unique. (Branson et al. 2015). I totally agree, as the creative culture for designers has been instilled in their formal education. A designer can create anything that they can visualise – the question is what is the problem in taking the design of something more concrete – to the next level?Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.04.08 pm

Things are changing though, albeit slowly – a new breed of young designers are starting to take a few more risks. According to Heller (2011), “in the past designers were hired to make other peoples’ ideas concrete, in this new entrepreneurial environment, designers (and design students) are thinking, conceiving and making their own products.” (Heller 2011, 14)

Personal experiences can also be the case for innovation. This is the case for the invention of ClearRx, a labeling system developed by designer Deborah Alder as part of her thesis project.  “One day, Deborah’s grandmother took her grandfather’s medicine by mistake. Her name was Helen. His was Herman. Same initial – H Adler – and the pill bottles looked alike.” (Adler, 2005) The system introduced more information on the bottle, medical information on the patient along with the aid of coloured rings on the bottle. Deborah has taken a more personal approach (due to her experience) and says “Don’t design for the world, design for the person | patient | nurse | consumer | student” (Adler, 2005). Alder has taken the personal approach to her design work instead of the one size fits all approach and it shows in her success of tailoring a solution.

Most designers have the belief that they don’t have the financial skills to run a startup.

Drawing on my experience, the fear factor of the unknown is great when it comes to turning an idea into reality. Even in my previous employment in the business sector has not equipped me with the fortitude to be able to take my vision and turn it in to a marketable product, as the leap of faith that is required has not been in my being or my school training. Heller states that collaboration is not a sin (Heller 2011, 16) and this is really what resonates with me. In the creative world, we are very proud of our concepts and ideas that it is hard to part with the proverbial baby and allow another party in to take the idea to the next step. This could be referred to pride in our project, and as we all know pride is a sin.

A big idea as well as a small, good idea, is not very big or very good if it sits lifelessly on paper. (Heller 2011, 16) This is what I refer to the fear factor, where you don’t want to take the leap of faith to be able to move the next level. The fear of having a garage full of boxes of an invention that hasn’t sold because it not wanted, overpriced, poorly marketed or dare be it counterfeited by the manufacturer overseas and you are now outpaced for the market. According to Akpem (2015) Designers are great at producing visual artefact’s. They create mockups, images, code and all sorts of other material to document solutions to the brief. But looking only at those artefact’s doesn’t account for the actual creative process. (Akpem, et al. 2015). It is with Akpem’s statement, I could not agree more, the designer needs to know that they actually have all the tools to be an entrepreneur, they just need a bit of business smarts to complete the package, the so-called area of the left brain.

Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity. (On Purpose Associates, 2011) As a so called ‘mid brain’, one who utilises both the theoretical left and right brain hemispheres of the brain, I can see the proverbial picture from both sides of the fence. The thinking and analytics of a product to market can be quite daunting to a creative right-brainer and the aesthetics and feeling that it take a great idea and develop it in the creative sphere is a notion that is not able to be comprehended by a so-called left brainer.


Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.05.17 pmSince the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in 2008, the wallets of banks in Australia have been firmly closed to any ventures with risk even though Aley (2013) reports that Australians access to funding is ranked 5th among G20 countries, 8 years post GFC. As young designers, it is an issue to be able to get funding for an innovation product even in todays market without some form of security some 8 years on from the GFC as 53% of Australian entrepreneurs surveyed say access to bank loans has deteriorated. (Aley et al. 2013).

There is some light though in the finance sector with Australian and New Zealand Banking group (2015) pledging $2 billion in new funding for new small business yet this is a drop in the ocean of what is needed to be able to fund the innovators of Australia, however ANZ (2015) states that it “approved on average 74% of fully completed new small business lending applications” in the last 12 months.

It is also not only the banks that have stopped funding the innovating entrepreneurs, Aley (2013) reports that in Australia 34% reported seeing a dip in venture capital funding and 37% say government funding has deteriorated. This is disappointing with finance to small business also being cut from the last two federal budgets. According to Aley (2013) “In this environment, any measures that support investor confidence and attract new sources of funding will be important in ensuring Australia’s entrepreneurs don’t lose their drive.” Unfortunately, the current federal government does not share the same views, as I believe we need to invest in Australian projects to better results for Australian trade figures and not have the project go off-shore.

What has happened to Innovation?

In our current financial climate in Australia, it is as important as ever put pride aside and collaborate with an investor to get the idea off the paper. TV shows of the 90’s and 00’s focused on the inventions of Australians – remember Towards 2000, Beyond 2000 and the New Inventors. The new series of the Shark Tank on Network Ten in Australia has reignited the entrepreneurial passion in the Australian living room. Inventors and entrepreneurs from many different backgrounds can pitch their existing ideas to the panel of ‘Sharks’ but the common thread of all episodes is the Sharks want the inventor or entrepreneur to have invested something more than just time into their idea to show they have fortitude in business.

A continual theme on Shark Tank is that the Sharks want the contestants to have had the forward thinking and the smarts to put in place patent protection, have a working prototype, a sensible valuation by a third party is on the table yet most importantly the contestant knows their figures on their product – Revenue, Cost of Sales, Profit etc. – basic stuff.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.04.49 pmApart from banks and celebrity investors, the most common source of investors for your first project is now the internet through crowd-funding – think of websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, FundRazr or Crowdfunder. These sites draw high volumes of traffic to your idea but do require that you meet your funding goals and they take 3 to 5% of all revenue, as well as limitations on some sites require that the project be US or UK based, so this is very important to research before putting your hard fought idea up for funding. The ROI required will usually be the actual product, T-Shirt or some other feel good item (sticker etc) to say that you’re supported the product before it was a household name.

Looking at the case of Ideapod, it was the brainchild of two Australian high school students – Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs from Melbourne. Their project allows users to post ideas on the site, sparking discussions with other users. Due to crowd-funding on Indiegogo, Ideapod was founded in the US, but the pair have an ambitious goal of rivaling Twitter for user numbers in the next two years. (Redrup et al. 2015). Aley (2013) states that 40% of local entrepreneurs thought that access to crowd-funding had improved in the last three years, compared to an average of 34% across the G20.” (Aley et al. 2013) – this could also be attributed to the number of crowd-funding sites has increased but most likely that Australian consumer sentiment has changed in regard to the view of crowd funding.

In this Information Age, How is technology making it easier than ever before?

Designers as entrepreneurs  do have access to technology like never before, Technology in 2015 is a given with more smart phones sold in Australian than Australians to use them. Every day creatives are using computers and design software to develop their visual communication solutions in response to a client brief. Designers need to be more proactive than reactive in regard to their ideas, as is the case of Airbnb which is data driven, they don’t let data push them around.

Instead of developing reactively to measured data, the team often starts with a creative hypothesis, implements a change, reviews how it impacts the business and then repeats that process. (First Round Review, 2015). Designers need to be more like the successful entrepreneurs at Airbnb then just going on like they have known all their life. The Airbnb structure encourages employees to take measured, productive risks on behalf of the company that can lead to the development of major new features. It allows Airbnb to move quickly and continually find new opportunities. (FRR, 2015)

Design Education in Australia

So it begs to ask the question – “what role do educational institutions play in helping designers become entrepreneurs?”

Branson (2015) believes that educators need to show design students how to be design entrepreneurs. His definition of a design entrepreneur is a person who looks at the existing design marketplace and says ‘I can use design in a different way’, ‘I can reinvent the studio model’, ‘I can start a design-led business that shows other businesses how design can add to the bottom line’. (Branson et al. 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.04.36 pm

I agree that educational institutions teaching anything in the creative arts also need to focus on the business side. Ultimately regardless of your design discipline, you are going to be required to turn a dollar; to be able to eat and pay rent. It has been long recommended that designers will work as a junior under the wing of other creatives after they finish their formal education – this typically lasts 5-10 years before the move up the ladder in the studio or going out on their own where they need these business skills.  Aley (2013) states that for education and training Australia is ranked 2nd among G20 countries and that in his study 50% saw an improvement in entrepreneur-specific courses at universities and business schools and that 38% say the top priority for improving student perception of entrepreneurship is the promotion of success stories (Aley et al. 2013).

“Interestingly, over two-thirds of Australian survey respondents (69%) now think students need access to specific training to become entrepreneurs, a reversal in sentiment from 2011 when 64% of respondents didn’t think training was required.” (Aley et al. 2013). We need to see a focus on university design courses and private design school institutions including business training in their courses, as it still seems to be lacking as a fundamental part of the standard design school teaching with some exceptions of course…

To foster a more whole-brained scholastic experience, teachers should use instruction techniques that connect with both sides of the brain. They can increase their classroom’s right-brain learning activities by incorporating more patterning, metaphors, analogies, role playing, visuals and movement into their reading, calculation and analytical activities. (On Purpose Associates, 2011)

Why is there such high optimism in Australia?

Australia has an internal view that we are the lucky country. The place where if you have an idea and put in the effort, you can have the great Australian dream. According to Clancy (2012)1.48 Million Australian’s are early stage entrepreneurs. Associate Professor Paul Steffens state that ‘four out of five new business are starting because their finds have identified opportunities and pursued them’. (Clancy et al. 2012).

Currently there is a high level of business start-up in Australia, where Australia sits in 2nd position in a pool of 54 developed nations, only the United States is ahead of us. Of the adult population in Australia, 10% have been involved in a setting up a new business or owning a newly founded business. (Clancy et al. 2012). This static alone shows that their is a high level of optimism in Australia, however this statistic reflects Australians not only Australian designers. Designers have ideas but some are stuck behind the security to take a leap of faith, going out into the ‘business world’ and taking that step is considered daunting by many, as they lack the business smarts and financial knowledge to turn that idea into a tangible product.

It is with interest that these statistics show that Australia is a fertile ground in where to plant a business. The doom and gloom is not reflected by most, as Clancy (2012) reports that ‘Around 50% of Australian adults believe they can identify opportunities for start ups and 12% of Australians not currently involved in entrepreneurial activity intend to start a new business within the next three years. (Clancy et al. 2012).

The mentality that was instilled in me by the Australian education system is that you support the underdog and the little Aussie battler, the have a go attitude. I feel that this is still the case today and Clancy (2012) seems to also agree. “Australians were more confident about their ability to start and run a business than would-be entrepreneurs in most other developed countries” (Clancy et al. 2012).

The problem is about bridging the gap between thinking about ‘having a go’ as a right brained creative and actually taking these steps. It goes back to what Heller (2011) states in that “the design entrepreneur must take the leap away from the safety of the traditional designer role in the precarious territory where the public decides what works and what does not.” (Heller 2011, 11)

Hero Entrepreneurs

The most famous hero entrepreneur that comes to my mind is Sir Richard Branson, why does he do what he does? The answer in my opinion is free publicity for his Virgin group of companies and he does it very well. You don’t have to be a hero to be an entrepreneur but you do need spirit and fortitude. When you look past all the hype, you see they may be determined and passionate, but they also follow processes and patterns of developing and testing ideas, building support networks and developing certain communication and business skills. (Logue et al. 2014).

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.04.49 pmWhilst the former Melbourne students who invented Ideapod aren’t hero entrepreneurs, they certainly have caught the eye of one. Redrup (2015) reports that their platform has been endorsed by New York-based performance artist Marina Abramovic, but it was positive public messages from Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson that has given the venture cause for hope about broader adoption by business users.

“I love Ideapod and I loved reading about all the ideas you came up with,” Mr Branson said in response to a post on Ideapod asking users what Virgin Group should do next. (Redrup et al. 2015). This is the sort of publicity that money can not buy, it is important to state that the entrepreneurs behind IdeaPod were not just lucky in getting Branson’s attention, they built a great platform which deserved his attention.

Diversity is a key to success, being just a logo designer is not being a visual communicator. True graphic designers are trained to provide an identity system for a client not just a $5 logo, however visual communicators need further skills. Logue (2014) says that they need to acquire stronger marketing, networking and social interaction skills – skills they weren’t born with. They needed to learn how to articulate a value proposition, how to understand the needs of the market, how to pitch and sell an idea, and how to persuade investors of the merits of an idea. (Logue et al. 2014). I think this is the very core of the culture in regard to designers, the need for training in these areas by way as making it part of formal design education. Just like designers, entrepreneurs develop a concept, prototype it, evaluate it, redevelop it, test it and then put it into the marketplace. (Branson et al. 2015).

There truly is not much difference between a designer and an entrepreneur in their skill set. However the entrepreneur (unless creatively trained) does not have the design skills to envisage the creation of the solution and that is what puts the designer at an advantage. However it comes back to the reoccurring topic of training being insufficient for designers in entrepreneurialism. Branson (2015) believes that designers and entrepreneurs have a lot on common. Young designers need to be educated in how to be entrepreneurial and establish design businesses that at the moment, are way beyond the comprehension of the traditional design studio owner. (Branson et al. 2015).

The benefits of networking

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.05.02 pmWhile computers are powerful, there’s only so much that software alone can achieve. However, going out to meet customers (let alone investors) in the real world is almost always the best way to wrangle their problems and come up with clever solutions. (FRR, 2015) I fervently believe that you are not going to be able to get a local partner or investor by sitting at your desk and sending email. To get your idea off the ground and get financial backing takes getting out of your comfort zone. Investors (apart from crowd-sourcing) are not going to be found online, they are found through opportunities that come through networking. This is where the social media LinkedIn site becomes of value, as like with job hunting, a friend of a friend of a friend is something that you have in common and can be the virtual tipping point when comparing business plans. Investors like to invest but they have their money to invest or loan as they are also smart in business – they didn’t make their money by being foolish with it.

I agree with Logue (2014) who stated that “leaving full-time employment for a start-up is risky, but many do so having been successful in their careers and with the security of a strong professional network and a fall-back position. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily risk takers, but they are seemingly more comfortable with uncertainty”. (Logue et al. 2014). In the case of Airbnb, one of the founders Gebbia said that “in the first year of the business, we sat behind our computer screens trying to code our way through problems”. “We believed this was the dogma of how you’re supposed to solve problems in Silicon Valley”. “It wasn’t until our first session with Paul Graham at Y Combinator where we basically told for the first time, as someone gave us permission to do things that don’t scale, and it was in that moment, and I’ll never forget it because it changed the trajectory of the business” (FRR, 2015). These light bulb moments happen for a reason and took Airbnb from making $200 a week and with the founders having maxed out credit cards to actually turning a profit and turning the business into the success story that it is today.

Moving forward, what can be done?

In all honesty, I think that Heller (2011) has it correct in his statement that “Many designers have good, even great ideas, but odds are most of these will simply remain notions rather than become concrete products. One reason is the apparent inability to move from notion to concept or concept to product because designers have a perceived lack of expertise.” (Heller 2011, 8) Even with the many facets mentioned in this article, faith, funding, networking, optimism – it comes down to the core fact that right brained design education without the left brained business education is holding back young designers from becoming business entrepreneurs.

To take the leap of faith to move into starting your own business or launching a new product, requires left-brain business training which allows young creatives to have the skill set and fortitude to take the next step(s) with their ideas. The perception of the existing studio environment is that it is suppresses entrepreneurial culture; as it is beyond the comprehension of the studio owner and that the only way to make this change is through better training and education.

I believe in the words of Steve Jobs, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” is a motto to live by for every designer and they need to take that leap of faith.

Report References:

Akpem, Senongo 2015, “Designing Case Studies: Showcasing A Human-Centered Design Process – Smashing Magazine” [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed 22 August 2015.

Alder, Deborah 2005, “Deborah Adler Design | Clear Rx Medication System” [ONLINE] Available at: Accessed 22 August 2015.

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