Why a digital design studio is THE partner you need to build your MVP

Because you can’t do it all alone.

Mikołaj Biernat
Vibin’ to vinyl records

A cartoonish lightbulb shined above your head. You shouted ‘Eureka’ and the idea for a digital product finally came to you. From that moment, you’ve been psyched to make it come true. But you can’t do it alone. You need someone to help you build that thing.

Building MVPs is tough

The startup industry matures with every year, making it easier and easier to launch an app. While that’s great news for aspiring founders, it lowers the bar for everybody — competitors included. And the markets are so saturated with growing businesses, it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd.

Nowadays, most tech-savvy (think ‘willing to binge hours of tutorials’ tech-savvy) founders can hack together a prototype of their idea. But that’s just a fraction of the efforts you need to scale your MVP into a thriving business. To achieve your goals, you gotta assemble your team Ocean’s Eleven style.

The right team

Luckily, if you’re not robbing a casino, your options look better than Danny’s. You can put together an in-house team, hire a bunch of freelancers or team up with a digital design studio (like us!)

Each choice has its strengths. What works for you depends on your context. But if you wanna build a successful MVP, working with a digital design studio is your best shot. And here’s why.

Why a digital design studio is the right call

Quick kick-off

Compared to freelancers or an in-house team, it takes less time to kick-off the work on your MVP with a digital design studio, because it does several steps for you.

And getting straight to the point should be your default approach to business when your time to market doesn’t leave you a lot of space to slack (get it?).

To back it up, let’s see how an example kick-off process looks from different perspectives.

Freelancers

First, you gotta figure out what specialists you need to hire: product, user experience, user interface designers? And they don’t make your job easier when everyone introduces themselves as a Pixel-pusher or Digital Storyteller. Knowing who does what forces you to study a couple of blog posts.

Once you know what type of designers you’re looking for, you have to figure out where to find them. This sounds like a simple Google search but can get surprisingly difficult, because the most talented folks often stay away from the most popular websites where knowing how to fit into the algorithms counts more than the actual skillset.

Alternatives? Ask your friends. A chat with your peers gives you a higher chance of finding reliable people, but also take more time and hassle.

If you’re lucky and receive a few applications, you have to review them to make sure that these people meet your expectations. A quick skim through their portfolio is the faster way to do it. But if you’re hiring someone to build your precious MVP, you should be more cautious and assign them a test project or hire them for a week to see if they’re the right fit. And that will cost you time and money — at least if you’re decent and pay them for their work. Regardless of your final decision.

At last, once you find your chosen one(s), they better have enough capacity to take on your project within a reasonable timeline.

In-house team

If you want to hire an in-house, the first couple of steps you have to go through that I mentioned above still apply.

Though if you’re after seasoned designers, your search might be more difficult. That’s because all the senior specialists are already working elsewhere. So you need to either find someone who’s willing to switch jobs or has enough time to build your MVP after hours. Both are hard to figure out just by looking at their LinkedIn profiles.

So, what you’re left with? Job boards? Well, they can get pricey. And non-essential expenses should be out of your focus.

Once you collect some resumes, again, it’s you — or someone you’re paying — to review the applications.

If you succeed and hire someone, you’re then left overwhelmed with a load of HR stuff, including the onboarding process. And remember — you’re not the only one looking for experienced specialists — other companies may have more money and benefits to offer.

Digital design studio

Now, let’s see how teaming up with a digital design studio compares with freelancers or an in-house team.

Well, it’s the first step and things already look better. For starters, you don’t have to know exactly what type of specialists you need. They’re all working there. Once you explain what you want to achieve and where you’re currently at, we’ll tell you what you need based on on our previous experiences with other early-stage startups.

You also don’t have to wait days for a reply. There’s a clear divide between designers and developers working on MVPs and project managers who handle the communication with potential clients — so no questions are left unanswered.

Once we identify your needs, the next thing you see is a kick-off meeting scheduled in your calendar. And that’s it — we’ll take care of the agenda and process.

Team of many talents

When you’re bringing up a new product to market, you’re constantly validating your assumptions. The more feedback you can get at the ideation phase, the better. To make sure what you’re getting is valuable, you ask people from different backgrounds.

And it’s easy to get all the feedback you need when working with a digital design studio. At tonik, we assign a couple of designers to every project by default. That’s just a fraction of our entire team, but thanks to our internal feedback loop, they constantly bounce ideas off each other.

This means you’re working with the whole team, not just a few selected designers. And their chemistry is unmatched.

Pair of fresh eyes

Spend too much time working alone and you start missing obvious threats and opportunities. While stories about all the solopreneurs sound like a Silicon Valley dream come true, it might be THE reason your startup will fail. Y Combinator (the world’s most prestigious startup accelerator) itself discourages solo founders from applying.

That’s why they choose to team up with partners or advisors — to get a pair of fresh eyes. Why not do the same, outsourcing your design team?

Good design communicates your MVP to new users clearly. But because of the curse of knowledge it might be hard to explain all the gimmicks of your product to your audience. That’s why an external, open-minded team is perfect for that job.

When pitching your project to the team, cover the basics. Who’s your customer? What are their problems? How can you solve them? These are the same questions you’d answer to your investors — and that’s not a coincidence.

Flexible partnership

Only in utopia timelines stay as estimated. In reality, you always face some obstacles that cause delays.

Plan the work for too long ahead and you might be surprised by problems beyond your control (e.g. someone from your team gets sick for 2 weeks or you decide to pivot).

Tighten the schedule too much and you might miscalculate your estimate and arrive at an inbox full of stakeholders’ follow ups about why the launch date keeps on getting rescheduled.

Frankly, that happens all the time. So instead of imagining the ideal workflow, we’re prepared for bumps like these.

Whether you’re getting ready for a marathon or sprint, you always have all the flexibility you need. Wanna speed things up? We’ll add an extra pair of hands to help. Need to slow down? No worries — we can pause the work until you figure your stuff out.

Vast network

Even teams that wear many hats have only so much headroom. You’ll find talented designers and developers in every digital design studio. But there’s always some niche strategy or new tech stack they won’t be familiar with.

Yet that’s not a problem when you have 15+ years in the industry under your belt and an extensive network of smart friends who compliment your skills.

And these are not just the other agencies we collaborate with to complete some of our clients’ MVPs. This goes beyond pixels and code. With our connections with business accelerators, angel investors and VCs, we’re just a handshake away from all different industry leaders.

Takeaways

  • To build a successful MVP you gotta work with experts.
  • Out of all the options, a digital design studio is your best partner.
  • Choose them and you’ll start the work quickly, collaborate with people of diverse talent, get a fresh perspective, stay flexible and access their vast network.

Mikołaj designs useful digital products and writes copy that explains them with a punchline.

Mikołaj Biernat
Product Designer
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tonik here — a design studio focused on early stage startups, helping founders define, design and build products.

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