August 9, 2017

Making Things Simple Without Being A Simpleton

Running a business, regardless of size, is very difficult without certain processes and business tools in place. An efficient process often has proven tools at its core.


I’ve learned about the business of design by getting knocked-down nine times and standing up ten. When I had my first freelance projects while still enrolled in college, I knew enough to know that I needed some sort of written estimate to give a client and, maybe, a set of rules we could agree to play by. Unfortunately, this being 1993 B.G. (Before Google), I didn’t know where to look for these tools. The people I asked about it couldn’t give me any concrete answers either.


Needless to say, those first few projects were some rough learning experiences.


As I gained more professional experience, launched a business and grew my network (and as the internet took off), it became easier to acquire, test and validate “best practices” tools and techniques. Still, I was amazed by the number of people—especially recent graduates—lacking access to quality business tools. Sometimes we reinvent the wheel so much that it makes me wonder if we’re all in the wheel business.


I decided it was time to share some of our tools and started a new division of Fifth Letter, Smpl., to do exactly this.


Our goal with Smpl. is to make tools and knowledge available to emerging designers, solo practitioners and anyone else who may need help streamlining their small design business or in-house department. Great tools allow everyone to do what they went into business for—being creative—rather than always managing the pain of the business process.


We’re launching our first round of products (a variety of proposal scenarios and an accompanying master agreement) now with more on the horizon. I hold fast to the belief that a rising tide raises all ships and am very excited to be helping the profession I enjoy so much.


If you feel these tools will be useful, I encourage you to learn more here. If you have any suggestions for tools you would like to see, please let me or someone else on the Fifth Letter team know.

Photo of Elliot Strunk

Elliot is the founder and Ringleader of Fifth Letter. When not thinking about design, you can usually find him practicing it. He can be reached at