Design Business Model Canvas

The one new business development tool
you have to use this year.

I’ve spent the past few weeks tracking back and forth across the country working with some great design studios. As a result, I am totally inspired by the growth potential for design in Australia.

I’ve seen a common thread across all the studios.

All are looking for a simple tool they can use to get new business. It has to be something that is scaleable. It has to be manageable, and it has to fit into the capability of the studio (time and money).

I point designers to the Business Model Canvas.

I know that if you’ve done work with the canvas you may be inclined to stop reading …but please read on. I guarantee it will change your business.

If you don’t know about the canvas this video will explain it.

Some designers may have been introduced to the Canvas as part of a design road show that happened a few years ago. The presenter used a traditional approach that I think can be improved for the Australian design market.

I tweaked the base model and incorporated aspects designed for Australian design studios and the Australian design market. I call it the Design Business Model Canvas and since then I’ve seen it used successfully in hundreds of design studios.

What is a business model?

A business model is a different way of thinking about your business and where you want it to go. A design business model describes how a design studio creates, delivers, and captures economic or social value for clients. The process of business model design is part of business strategy. It can be a quick and dirty exercise that helps you think through your business.

Business models are more likely to take the form of a one–page visual presentation and are done before a business plan. The business model is best produced quickly, then rapidly tested with clients and then reconfigured. The model you choose is then detailed in your business plan.

One of the major proponents of the business model canvas is Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and originator of the lean start-up concept.

In a May 2013 article for Harvard Business Review, Steve Blank explains that launching any new business has always been a hit or miss proposition. He quotes research by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Gosh which shows that 75% of all start-ups fail. Blank believes the answer is in the “lean start-up”.

He compares the business model approach to a traditional business plan approach. As he says: the “lean start-up”, favours experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up-front” development.

According to Blank, the business model is just a hunch or hypothesis (and so is the business plan). The difference is that the business model can be prepared in a few hours. Blank believes that as a business owner you rapidly develop a business model and then “get out of the building” to test it with clients.

The Design Business Model Canvas

The Design Business Model Canvas is different because it adds a Competitor column and it turns the Key Activities section into Strategies and the Value Proposition into a Design Value Proposition.

You can’t work out your competitive advantage without understanding your competitors. It’s not about trying to ‘knock them off’ – it’s about identifying how you are different and why that difference should be important to your clients.

The Key Activities section in the canvas sets out the strategies you need to get new business. Using this, and the Design Value Proposition, you can identify and target the type of work you want to do.

I have used the Design Business Model Canvas with more that 90 designers as part of workshops and mentoring.

My approach varies from most consultants who help you write the Canvas and then leave you to work out how to implement it. I follow through by helping designers to develop a series of strategies to follow. A to-do list.

The beauty of this approach is that having learnt how to use the Canvas in your business, you can then use it with clients.

One of the studios I mentor now uses the Canvas as the first stage for an identity or branding project. Since starting this approach, project budgets have increased and in one case what had been a one off job has turned into a 12 month project with a client.

Let’s talk

If you would like to hear more about how this works drop me an email and we can set up a time to chat.

Greg Branson
Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.
Greg has developed a series of processes and tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.