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Design as an Entrepreneur (with Chris Chase) | AIGA San Diego Y Conference 2018

Posted on: July 31st, 2018 by Aaron Nabus

The AIGA San Diego Y Design Conference is an annual design conference hosted by AIGA San Diego. Bringing together nationally renowned industry thinkers, innovators and creators for two days of inspiration, this year’s “Y23” took place on May 5–6, 2018 at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego.

Full of incredible speakers such as Debbie Millman, Deborah Adler, Louise Fili, Scott Boms, Ash Huang, Natasha Jen, Matthew Santone, Vanessa Dewey, Michelle Fehler and San Diego’s own, Don Hollis, Y23 did not disappoint!

Speaking of local San Diego talent, Chase Design’s CEO and Creative Director, Chris Chase had an incredible opportunity to lead a round table lunch time discussion about how to “Design as an Entrepreneur.



Using his many years of experience as both a business owner and creative director, Chris has built a reputation as someone who can effectively utilize the left brain and right brain at the same time to create extraordinary value for Chase Design clients by connecting business strategy and branding strategy.

A concise, engaging brand is an absolute requisite for success in today’s competitive economic climate. Whether it’s a unified method of print presentation, a newly launched brand identity or a corporate rebranding, it is essential that a business presents itself in a unified, cohesive manner.

However, one important lesson that Chris conveyed, was that you shouldn’t design just to design, you should also purposefully design to support the business goals, business strategy and the business needs. Once you realize this, you will be able to better relate to CEO’s, CMO’s, business owners and major stakeholders.

In fact, if you want to bring more value to your own agency and grow your business,  you need get accustomed to having this type of clarity even before the design and branding phase begins.

During the round table discussion, other relevant topics pertaining to designing as an entrepreneur included:

  • Lack of teaching about business strategy (and even branding strategy) in design school.
  • Why we need to sell ourselves as business strategy partners.
  • Why it’s beneficial to communicate with the client (using their language).
  • How to build your team.
  • Finding people that complement you when building a team.
  • How to grow your agency.
  • The importance of SEO.
  • What you should look for in a contractor.
  • Tips for starting your own design business (such as a 6 month / 1 year financial buffer).
  • Charging what you’re worth and getting paid for the way you think.
  • Financial planning for the business. What are you actually spending your time on?
  • The challenges of properly bidding jobs.
  • The importance of integrity and honesty (don’t do anything that’s going to keep up you at night).
  • Whether you are design a print flyer, website or social media graphics, it’s all user experience.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a business, especially for a design, branding or marketing agency, is great customer service.

At Chase Design, being inspired to inspire others is at the core of our tagline, “Creating Success.” We get there by being accountable, being a person of your word, delivering on our deadlines and giving great customer service. In fact, great customer service is important because it’s the clients that allow us to get paid for something we love to do – otherwise, it would just be a hobby.

The journey from newly graduated solo designer to an experienced and respected consultant that runs a business, facilitates projects, hustles for new clients, manages employees and contractors and creative directs can be a daunting one. But with the awareness of how one can incorporate the left brain (business strategy) and the right brain (branding strategy), it’s definitely not impossible.