Run Studio Run
The brilliantly titled new book Run Studio Run is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Author Eli Altman was frustrated that there are (were) no good books for helping small creative studios build and grow their businesses, so he’s written one that details how to manage and grow a small creative studio. We spoke to him and designer Brent Couchman of Moniker about the title…
What lead you to make and produce this book Eli, and how and when did you get involved Brent?
Eli: I wrote Run Studio Run because it feels like the vast majority of creative professionals I interact with are allergic to business. The don’t want to talk about and they certainly don’t want to study or practice it. In design school and working as a brand strategist I learned so much about materials and typography and color and a building good presentations but I learned almost nothing about how a creative studio operates as a business. So when I took over as Creative Director at A Hundred Monkeys I felt like a 11 year old taking his mom’s station wagon out for a joy ride. Which is to say I had no idea how to control the vessel I was operating. Initially I looked for books about how to run a creative studio but there really wasn’t much out there. From that point I basically read any and every decent business book I could get my hands on. I tested and applied what I learned. Within a year the business was growing. That became a little addictive and I kept tinkering with how I could improve and grow A Hundred Monkeys. I guess this is a long way of saying that I wrote Run Studio Run so everyone else can benefit from my trial and error.
Brent: We’ve (Moniker) collaborated on multiple projects with Eli and the team at A Hundred Monkeys over the years, some client work, some fun personal projects. Eli reached out about the book and we jumped at the chance to collaborate with him as we were fans of his previous book and knew it would be fun to create something for a creative audience.
Eli you’ve kept the potential audience quite broad, appealing to all kinds of creative endeavours – did you find that culturally/thematically there was a lot of overlap in the advice and opinion you received from your contributors across these fields?
Eli: You know, I really did find a ton of overlap. Everyone is trying to solve the same problems. Everyone wants to avoid problem clients. Everyone wants to delegate better and free up more of their personal time. Everyone is balancing the merits of growth and responsibility. I think what ties creative professionals together from a business perspective is that they want the business side of the equation to be discreet or even invisible. On my first day of design school I had this gruff, intimidating, German professor in tight leather pants tell me that “good design is stealing without getting caught.” Looking back at that now, it applies to business even more than it applies to design.
Kickstarter is a tried and tested method for indie design publishing these days, but is still an emotional rollercoaster! – did you ever consider other methods of product & funding? and how have you found the process so far?
Eli: Absolutely. Our first thought was to publish Run Studio Run the same way I published two editions of Don’t Call It That. I work with a small, design-focused, publisher in San Francisco called Extracurricular Press which is run by Brian Scott – a designer in his own right. Kickstarter was actually his idea. Don’t Call It That is a workbook that takes people through the process of naming their company or product. It’s a very specific use case. Considering the audience for Run Studio Run is potentially a lot larger, we were wary of seriously over-producting or under-producing books. Kickstarter gave us a way to accurately gague the market. We had over 100 backers on the first day. I never got close to selling 100 books on day one with Don’t Call It That.
As a designer who has recently gone freelance i’ve been struggling to find advice on how to establish a very small studio (seemingly an increasingly popular situation) does the book cater for studios of all size?
Eli: Run Studio Run is written for people who have small (3-20-ish person) creative studios, or anyone who aspires to be in this category. I found that if you’re much bigger than that the process of retaining culture and cohesion, as well as how you approach things like management, hiring, and human resources needs to change. Bigger ships make wider turns. Run Studio Run is here to help you run a tight ship while you’re small. Once you’ve got that down, the world is your oyster.
Brent obviously the design community is very aesthetically driven (a point made in the Kickstarter film) – how did you approach the project – and Eli are there any plans to extend it beyond the book? (in an ever changing landscape will there be an updated or online version, or blog/social media etc?)
Eli: I’ve certainly been toying with the idea. Since I started down this long and windy road I have only gotten more interested in how creative studios operate and grow. I wouldn’t rule out doing a podcast or blog or something like that in the near future.
Brent: We led the design effort but kept it pretty open and collaborative between Eli, ExtraCurricular Press and internally at Moniker. Initial ideas for flow and structure of the book, illustrations, materials for printing and even contributors for the book came from everyone involved. As far as the creative audience goes, we knew we had a little more room to play with unique color and compositions and be a bit more abstract and gestural with the illustrative elements.
Help fund the book here!