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Got Design Needs? Ask a Student

Got Design Needs? Ask a Student

Thanks to entrepreneur Alex Barton, founder of, our fond preconception of party-loving students could soon be about to change.

Alex’s venture puts businesses of any size and shape in touch with some of the UK’s most promising design students, in his words, “professional quality design from the best upcoming design students”.

The idea is a brilliant one, as it benefits both business and students alike. Not only does the business get an impressive design at a reasonable price, and the chance to work with a design team of up to five students, they also get a great PR opportunity by helping out cash-strapped students. The student gets precious experience on their CV – helping them into employment post-graduation – and the business owner gets the satisfaction of knowing they helped that happen.

The business model

Set up less than a year ago to help students become more employable, works by giving clients the chance to work with several designers, whose skills and portfolios match their design needs.

The client then works with the designers collaboratively, before eventually falling in love with a design and going on to work with the chosen designer one-on-one to polish it.

Some businesses that approach come with a limited budget – and have been laughed out of design agencies or struggle to find a professional designer to fulfil their needs. But is not a design agency, and while some candidates may lack the experience of a seasoned designer, the client gets to work with the designer until they’re happy with the end result. And at a very reasonable price too.

The benefits to businesses are obvious – for example, one start-up required design patterns for a lamp they had developed, and during the process they received 127 variations of design to choose from. For students, the rewards are simply invaluable, especially as competition for post-graduate employment rises. “Some briefs have not only produced fantastic design for clients but led directly to students gaining employment,” says Alex.

The idea and the business model certainly works for which, still less than a year old, continues to go from strength to strength with a brand new website and a growing client base.

“I knew was going in the right direction when students and businesses persevered with the old website!” said Alex. “We have hundreds (soon to be thousands) of designers that can’t wait to work with businesses and we’re looking forward to bringing them together.

“Right now we are being regularly approached by companies and projects that want to work with us to help develop creative entrepreneurship – an area I’m passionate about – and other areas in design education.”

Alex says he has been lucky to build a strong team of five, and now “suddenly we have a huge number of companies that want to work with us” right across the spectrum – ranging from universities and creative agencies to business advisors.

“For me, the most fulfilling aspect of is when a design student is employed based on work they did with us, and reading our testimonials from clients who absolutely love their design.”

“Launch early, edit often”

Alex has learned fast and says that the best piece of advice to new businesses is “launch early, edit often” – as this gives you the chance to test your idea in the market and continually refine it, based on customers’ needs rather than what you think they want.

He has put this into practice with his own business. At first, their business model involved running design competitions where just one designer would get paid. While this still helped designers to build their portfolio, the student remained out of pocket and they also found that the design industry was against this approach.

“That’s why we now run design briefs with a maximum of five designers. All designers that take part in the business brief get paid, which is much more effective for both businesses and students alike.”

The team are now working on rolling this model out across Europe and globally which, for a company that’s less than a year old, is quite an achievement.

“It’s been quite an adventure,” says Alex. “By far the most challenging aspect of building has been to keep the momentum of the business going. When it was only me, focusing on one area would mean I was ignoring others.

“I was very lucky that what we are offering is a real need for both students and businesses. The combination of this, 15-hour days for the last year and a relentless, enthusiastic passion for what I do, has got us this far.

“Now that we have a team things are different. Now we all work 15-hour days!”

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Author: | September 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

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