This is a design company. Or at least I thought it was. As I look at our summer calendar and recent project launches, I’m starting to notice development work and maintenance arrangements becoming larger parts of the business. I can think of a few reasons to explain how this came to be.
One reason may be an influx of designers being asked to reach beyond their comfort zone as more complex web technologies become commonplace. It could be that our clients are starting to ask for the same complicated things, so we’re spending more time adapting an existing design into ever more interactive experiences. It could also be that the particular software we specialize in, ExpressionEngine, is gaining a wider following and more clients in need of advanced features and consistent maintenance work.
Early on when Gridwork first started and there wasn’t enough client work to fill all my time, I wasted money and carbon aimlessly driving around listening to business-y audiobooks, the first of which was The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I don’t remember much from this book, but one thing has always nagged me. He says something like your business must be something that you can repeat by automating and essentially franchising. Even though I never intend to franchise what Gridwork is doing, I’m strongly drawn to the idea of automating and standardizing as much of what we do as possible. The tension between selling creativity and simply executing functionality requests still exists, but the more we know about the best way to do one thing or another the more brain energy we can devote to the broader design and strategy. Creativity will always drive the spirit of this company, but standards and automation will finance our dreams of awesome health care and long forgotten credit card companies.
It is with this insight that we’re entering into our first real growth period. This spring, I began transitioning from full-time developer and designer to focusing a greater portion of my time on recruiting new clients, managing long-term relationships and training new associates to take on the added workload. Joining Mary (print design) and Brooks (development) is Erik Hanberg, currently implementing new client projects and bringing proven writing experience and project management to our talented roster.
In the coming months, look for a redesign of this site in the spirit of automation and improved communication. New client login tools will include dashboards for reviewing timesheets, assigning new tasks, self-administering their sites, monitoring project progress and storing brand / tech assets.