Discovery, Goal Setting & Admin! Kickoff: SP-2


The 3rd installment in this special series that gives you a front row seat to our startup process!

Today, we'll introduce the "client," Special (us!) and why it's a solid market opportunity in Discovery, then we’ll explore the concept in detail and set our business and design Goals. Finally, some nitty gritty in pricing and contracts for Project Administration. We’re going DEEP.

The Kick-Off phase is a critical first opportunity to establish the hallmarks of a good client-agency relationship. And really, that’s a huge part of what our business is about: connecting people – to a brand, and to each other. This is the fun part where we learn about one another and start to share background and ideas.

To do that, we have to be sure to get off on the right foot. By the nature of the work, we will become part of that team and an unwitting confidant for the whole outlook of that business.

We have to work out from the inside to understand where the client is coming from and where they are today, so we can help create and care for a brand that gets them where they want to go!


In this case, the client – Special – is us! So, let’s get some background. Why is this a good idea? Where’d it even come from? Where is it going?

Special started with the realization that special needs students depend on visual aid tools that are anything but inspirational to look at. When a local special ed teacher close to us set out to move into a new classroom, we were reminded about how limited her decor options were. Worn, decades-old posters provided by state initiatives and hand-me-downs from previous teachers in her district sent her immediately to the local education supply store.

There, she found out what we now know for certain: there are no visuals available for teachers that will actually enhance the aesthetic of their classrooms and make it more of a place where students and teachers alike want to spend time all day, five days a week.


We live in a culture where there are endless design options to customize and beautify your home, but a dearth of options to take into the homeroom. Catching a student’s eye and captivating their attention with aids might work better if the poster is actually visually compelling. While much of what’s out there now may be informative, there’s a lot to be desired in terms of beauty.

There’s opportunity there.

We don’t need to bore you with studies upon studies  about visual learners, but the evidence out there indicates that posters like these can be more powerful than we’d previously thought.

So, we researched the market a bit. Pinpointed our gap. Now to set some goals.


We’ve divided our goals into two classic groups that encompass both our agency side and our “client” side, Business + Pleasure.


  1. Create a viable business. Obvious, right? Here, we’ll crawl before we try to walk. Our tangible financial goal is selling $3k within the first 6 months. Setting a concrete metric like this enables us to look back and objectively measure our success.

  2. Perpetuate entrepreneurship. CONSPIRE is a creative agency that we built up from nothing, so why stop building now? How can we use our abilities to create new opportunities? We want to evolve as a company and apply our creative passion to more outlets – in this case, launching a new startup!


  1. Have fun with it. We don’t get to do much creative for ourselves these days. Here’s a subjective metric we’ll be looking at: is this project panning out for us? Is it worth it? As both the client and the creatives, we want to get all we can out of this endeavor. Risk, reward, all that.

  2. Try to change the world. Here’s the BHAG in the room: is this project allowing us to apply our passions and talents to something we believe can truly make a difference? The world we live in is crazy right now, people. We truly think that we’re all obligated to put some positivity out there if we have the means. So at some point we’ll have to ask ourselves, is Special actually helping anyone?

At CONSPIRE, we want to be a sort of purpose incubator. We want people to “get” branding, and why it’s important. It’s not just cool colors and designs. It’s a learning tool, it’s a communication device, it’s emotive. We want to give these Special posters a life of their own, and we want everybody to see that it’s possible to make a difference with design.

So, those are our 4 major goals. Now we have something by which to measure our startup’s success, as well as our agency’s success in branding and creating this stuff! If it doesn’t make much sense now, it will once we get started in the Strategy phase, SP-03.


Here’s the part creatives typically dread. Before we get to work, before we start brainstorming and laying out concepts, there’s a critical first step: setting concrete expectations with the client.

If you hire a designer and they aren’t totally buttoned up on this step, that’s a serious red flag! Have you agreed on fees? Deliverables? Deadlines? Is it in writing? These expectations change over the course of a project, on both ends, and if you don’t want to end up hating each other, everyone involved needs to align on this right at the start, and give yourselves something to refer back to when it inevitably gets hairy.

And in this case, we’re our own client. We don’t need any existential crises here. We’d better get along.

So, since there aren’t many comprehensive tools out there (for the hiring or the hired) on this critical part of a project, we’re going to lay it out real quick here. Brace yourself for some math and legalese.

+ Plan: If you’re a creative and you’ve never done this and your brain hurts, start here:

+ Scope: What are we building together any why?! See SP-03 (We’ll cover this in the next installment!)

+ Proposal and signatures: As creatives, we like to use Concord or Bidsketch.

+ Quotes, estimate, and invoicing: Some great resources out there now are FreshBooks, Xero, Quickbooks (duh), WePay, Stripe, and the trusty Paypal

When designers and clients are both on the same page, you avoid many of the dreaded disputes that ruin working relationships, and you can both stop worrying about payment and value after getting it out of the way, and focus on the work itself. This is the only repeatable step in a design process that’s ever changing. Get it right, guys! We’re super serious!


Whew! So where do we go from here?

We now need to answer the only branding question that matters: Why?

Stay tuned for creating a launch pad together in Strategy: SP-3 next installment.