Women's Innovator Breakfast: Design, Bitches

On October 2nd, founders of LA-based multidisciplinary architecture firm “Design, Bitches,” Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph, discussed their irreverent approach to developing integrated design solutions through experimentation with materials and graphics.

October 11, 2018

On October 2nd, founders of LA-based multidisciplinary architecture firm “Design, Bitches,” Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph, discussed their irreverent approach to developing integrated design solutions through experimentation with materials and graphics.

They began their talk with some general insights about the creative entrepreneurship process, including achieving clarity in brand vision and positioning in order to attract aligned clients for long-lasting partnerships. They advocated for cultivating relationships with a wide array of people — from the client to the construction crew — as an essential component of building sustainable collaborations.

Catherine and Rebecca illustrated these pointers through examples of their past work, including a collaboration with Cool Haus, an ice cream chain. This project evolved over time as the duo found ways to match their skills and interests with the needs of their client. The takeaway? “Find a way to yes,” they said. Another project of theirs with 9 Dots — a tutoring company in Hollywood — started on a small scale before expanding to a fully-fledged project that initially seemed out of their scope. “Something small can lead to something big,” they pointed out, emphasizing the role of trust in the development of bigger projects. A previous work relationship led Design, Bitches to fresh roasted subscription coffee service Tonx, a good reminder to build relationships because “you never know where someone may be heading.” This collaboration also led to other introductions in the coffee industry, and landed the duo a set of projects with another coffee company, Counter Culture.

The co-founders of Design, Bitches also shared their tactics on managing project workflows and creative collaborations. “We think it’s really important to be mentors, especially as a woman-owned architecture firm,” Catherine noted when discussing the importance of building out the right team and culture. The two also emphasized “knowing what you know and what you don’t know,” and distinguishing between instances when it helps to seek knowledge from others and having confidence about what you bring to the table. The creative entrepreneurs spend about a quarter of their time on business operations and developments, and told the audience that entrepreneurship in their field involves wearing a lot of different hats. Finally, the importance of delivering. “It’s one thing to come up with creative ideas; it’s another to both come up with these ideas and implement them effectively.”

The session ended with Rebecca and Catherine fielding questions from the breakfast attendees about the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship. One person asked about project scoping, and the speakers emphasized the importance of clarity in contracts and deliverables, as well as transparency throughout the process as circumstances change. Another student asked about failures and lessons learned. The founders opened up about one significant failure that led them to walk away from a project after completing two years of work on it due to a miscommunication, and noted that they have also had smaller, similar failures. “We like to

come with answers when presenting a problem to a client or partner,” Rebecca noted, saying that when mistakes happen, coming prepared with possible solutions is important.

One person also asked about how to join a similar kind of creative team. “The most compelling candidates have a clear idea of what they’re interested in,” Catherine said. “Throwing something out there in your own voice is key. Don’t be afraid to do that.” The two also noted the importance of persistence. “Generally, the people we hire are the ones who keep trying,” Rebecca said.

Veena McCoole is a senior English major at Yale who enjoys horse riding, traveling and eating croissants. Originally from Singapore, she loves hearing from entrepreneurs with game-changing ideas and companies, and is partial to the fashion-tech and wellness sector.

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