Or, 10 Ways to Run a Bootstrapped Design Studio. Number 8 Will Shock You!
Find an older building in the not-so-happening part of the city. If you are the first occupant, you will be able to negotiate a smaller deposit and a sensible rent. This is likely where the biggest chunk of your capital will go. Take time.
ProTip: See that the toilet works.
A good work desk is essential. We made five, modifying drawings from Codesign. (Thank you!) The tops moonlight as whiteboards and lightboxes when not burdened by gear and teacups. The legs are steel powder coated in white. We have had to repaint them once, thanks to the sea next door. Download our updated drawings here. Godrej has some okay office seating. If you are adventurous, score something way cheaper and more charming from a second-hand shop.
ProTip: Get adjustable plastic feet for the table.
Used ThinkPads are your friends. The X series is small and powerful. Anything from an X220 (excellent keyboard) to an X240 (even better built) will do, nicely. Corporates sell them off in bulk all the time, and most come with a Windows license that can get you running upto W10 with some patience. Expect to pay INR 13K to 19K for a good unit, and 5K for an SSD upgrade. Meet the seller with Speccy and CPUID in a thumb drive. The screens on older ThinkPads are useless for working with colours though, so you will need a monitor.
ProTip: Get a Thunderbolt to HDMI converter before you order the monitor.
4: The Monitor
A 23+ inch IPS monitor will cut down on time spent switching through open windows, hiding panels and hitting your head on the screen trying to zoom into an inktrap. We went with a 24 inch LG (24MP88HV-S) with equal, thin bezels on all sides and no logo up front. You can also find good deals (if 35K qualifies) on used Dell P series monitors that go 90-degree techbro with ease.
ProTip: Look beyond Amazon and Flipkart. SnapDeal often has better pricing for monitors.
Buying software for the studio is not as simple as submitting to an all-encompassing CC license. InDesign is irreplaceable for the price and learning curve. The Photography CC bundle is cheapest, but doesn’t include Ai and Id. (No bundle for designers.) Try Affinity Designer and Sketch before the splurge. If you are determined enough to go the F/OSS route, have a look at GIMP, RawTherapee, Inkscape and Scribus.
ProTip: Do not forget to add licensing cost to your hourly rates. (You have to calculate hourly rates even when you don’t put that in the contract.)
6: Cutting Mat
You paid good money for that table. Don’t go all Freddy Krueger on it every time a crop-mark calls out to you. Get the mat (ours is a MORN SUN 22.5 * 11 inches) a size bigger than what you think you need. Thank us later.
ProTip: Invest in a surgical knife with plenty of blades, and a 1m steel scale. Pretend you’re in Dexter S2E06.
What sets your work apart is
your UID you. That means scanned handwriting, textures, drawings and the odd scandwich of a flower where appropriate. Canon LiDe series is low on cost, high on convenience.
ProTip: Remember to put a clean OHP sheet over the glass when scandwiching things. And always save TIFF.
The accoutrements below aren’t necessary if you have no monsoon-related interruptions in electricity supply, have a friendly neighbour with a printer or a wardrobe that asks for a red carpet.
The APC ones make sense if you don’t receive your power from a Rube Goldberg machine tied to a competitive hamster. Our first couple are now paperweights; the new one is Back-UPS 600. We will see how well that works with the sea breeze.
Canon LBP series laser printers are good. Check for Mac and Windows drivers. Doesn’t matter if the printer can’t duplex things on its own; spend some time getting to know the quirks and experiment with paper thicknesses. Update: We welcomed a Brother HL-L321D home that does double-sided printing. We are impressed with the details in product design; Brother has really put thought into what a printer ought to do. Plus, it doesn’t look like it is about to take flight.
ProTip: Put a sticker on it showing which way the prints come out.
Once you are settled and a few clients have given you enough money, spend a good amount on stationery. A simple, branded envelope and business cards with character will go a long way in making you look like you are worth time and money. Be worth time and money first.
— Questions? Happy to help at firstname.lastname@example.org
† In India. The prices, ease/unease of access, workarounds and links work best in context.