Traditional vs. Untraditional Design Studio | By Breanna Rose of Rowan Made

I’ve subtly mentioned in many of my most recent blog posts that I’m currently working on streamlining my business. And that I would share a lot of that process with you all, so here it goes! No more of that vague “what is she really doing” sh*t. Ha. Throughout my freelancing career, it’s always been a goal of mine to create a studio that felt bigger than it was. To offer what the traditional studios offered, just in a smaller package. More boutique. At least that’s what I thought I wanted. I looked up to (and still do) studios like Ro And Co. and Stitch Design Co., who seemed to grow while staying true to their small roots. But as time went on, I realized that I liked working by myself for small businesses. And that maybe growing larger wasn’t what I really wanted.

As soon as I started Rowan Made, the question of “what do you really want” pushed it’s way to the forefront, occupying my mind and leaving me a bit paralyzed. Did I want to grow my little studio into something bigger and potentially bring more people on board? Did I want to offer ALL of the services and be a one stop shop? Or did I want to specialize? It was the intersection of traditional and untraditional. Initially, I feared that specializing would shut the door on cool projects or paint me as less of a “real” designer, so I kept things vague + listed out a TON of services I could offer, just as most of the traditional studios do.

I walked the path of a traditional designer for awhile, despite feeling off about the whole thing. I became my own boss to break rules and do what I wanted. So why wasn’t I? Any time I visited the website of a designer who was specializing or clearly doing exactly what they wanted, I got inspired and crazy excited. And soon enough, that untraditional path became the only option.

When I’m being honest with myself, I don’t want to manage a ton of other designers or grow my business into this huge thing. I want to work one on one with the right clients and do good work. It’s as simple as that. And in order to do my best work, it means that I’m finally ready to streamline and specialize. As of right now, I feel like my business is a gigantic mess of experimentation. But in a good way. ;) I’m trying out a few new process ideas, working on defining my services, and being completely honest with myself.

My goal through all of this is to figure out what works best for me and my clients and to apply the rule of transparency in all that I do so that it’s abundantly clear. Plus, I’m going to continue sharing more of what I’m discovering right here on the blog as a way of getting it out “on paper” and gaining insight from all of you, too.

PS. I wanted to share some of the people who have inspired me to think about what I really want. :) Elise of Hey Sweet Pea is a friend of mine who dropped her design services completely to follow her gut and teach + inspire creatives all around the world. Joanna Waterfall started exploring new passion projects of hers (like the Yellow Conference) and is all about doing what you want and surrounding yourself with a positive environment. And Lauren Hooker of Elle & Co. is a great example of a designer specializing in what she does best as well as being super transparent about all of it.

  1. Brittany says:

    I love that you are sharing your journey as you work through your path. It is really inspiring to see. There are things your can’t and wont learn about owning your own business until you start. And even then, sometimes the beginning can be so foggy you aren’t sure where you are headed. Its important to question, find inspiration, reflect, and find yourself in it all.

    • breanna says:

      Yes exactly! I’m sure there will be times where all of us THINK we know what we want, and then life is like “is that what you really want?” and you change course. Reflection and honesty is so important. :)

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’m so excited for you and I look forward to reading future updates as you explore more of what you love to do!! Isn’t it crazy how we feel like there’s this order and structure to the way things should be done—from the design process to the type of work we do—when we’re the bosses calling the shots?? Whenever I realize that I’m the one who has established a rigid mindset about things and I can just stop and change, I suddenly feel a wave of release. Also, thanks for being transparent and moving away from the vagueness. :) I feel like too many of us are super vague because we’re protecting secrets, when really sharing our knowledge and experience will only draw in the dream clients and biggest fans.

    • breanna says:

      Thanks Jennifer! And I totally agree. As much as we are our own bosses, structure and order seems to be something we seek. But it’s easy to forget that HEY, we can define what that is and change things up if it doesn’t feel right. :)

      I don’t want to keep any of this secret and really enjoy sharing it with all of my readers and gaining insight into what you all think as well, so I’m glad you stopped by. Thank you!

  3. Mailinh says:

    Love that you’re sharing your journey with us, Breanna. I’m excited to see what you discover as your navigate your own path. I’ve been in the same boat of trying to figure it all out and axes ideas or possibilities that are good but don’t fit my passion.

    Can’t wait to hear more! Go get ’em, girl!

    • breanna says:

      I’m excited to find out more too, ha. ;) I’m getting there – and promise to share more once things are feeling a bit more solidified! <3

  4. Carrie says:

    Good for you for being honest with yourself and not pushing ahead with a plan that doesn’t feel right! That can be tough, especially when you put so much work in to try something new. I am in Erin Anacker’s Spark group and recently took her Cultivate course. It really helped me get specific about the work I want to do, who I want to do it for, and why. Everyone that was in the course with me came out with mega clarity and confidence. It may be helpful as you get your next plan shaped up. :)

  5. Megan says:

    I. love. this.
    As a fellow graphic designer, I have been putting a lot of thought towards this very subject. I currently work in the agency world and have realized how unhappy I am working in that industry, and how much I’d rather be doing my own thing. It’s hard to break into freelance, but it’s something I want to start pursuing very soon. My sanity needs it! I’m glad you’re going to be sharing your journey…I look forward to following along!

  6. kate says:

    This is REALLY speaking to me right now, girl, and thanks for the Elle & Co link, I love how straight forward her business is. I’m so tired of feeling like I need to do it all and spreading my focus thin.

  7. Chelsea says:

    I love your honesty! As a freelancer who has worked in the agency realm in the past, I totally understand the feeling of not wanting to get bigger just because that’s what you do. Bigger ≠ Better. I’m right there with you! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ann says:

    Thank you for being so open about your journey – I’m experiencing the same things; this working for yourself thing sure is an unpredictable ride, isn’t it?

  9. Riz says:

    Hi Breanna! I’m from Manila. I’ve always been inspired by your work, and I totally get everything you say here. As a designer myself, I feel trapped with having to satisfy the different preferences of my clients–I love them, to be clear, and I love the opportunity to help them move forward with their personal projects and businesses. But for me, I find it frustrating that I don’t get to express myself creatively in other people’s projects and not have time for my own. So I’m looking forward to see how it goes for you. :) I’m feeling a bit lost myself. I feel like I’m currently where you were when you were taking clients left and right, and while it’s good for my growth, I’m starting to feel the burden that you had yourself. You’re a couple of steps ahead of me in this journey, I’m looking forward to learning from you. :)

    I found these guys when I’m trying to search for answers — do you know them too? THIS POST spoke a lot to me. I’m glad to find people who are making it happen for them. Gives me hope that I can find my own path too. :)

  10. I love that you’re doing this. It’s funny, because I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my business, and as I sit and try to figure out what I really want, it’s good to see designers I look up to going through the same thing. Makes me feel “more normal” as opposed to weird (or we’re all weird together. What’s wrong with weird anyway? ;))

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!


  11. […] • As a designer, you don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else just because it looks good on paper. Bri explains how she figured out what worked best for her. […]

  12. Juliet says:

    I can’t wait to read more about your journey. As a designer who is still trying to find her way, your posts are helpful and inspiring!

  13. Bri! Thanks for the shoutout friend. Your blog has always been such a genuine place of inspiration and light. Love what you’re up to!!

  14. Alex-Anna says:

    Thank you for always sharing the turning points of your journey as a designer. I’m a year out from finishing design school and I always remind myself that you knew you wanted to work for yourself right out of school. While my classmates are researching agencies and firms to apply to, I just keep being inspired by exactly what you do. So you go girl! Do what you want! :)

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