It’s not easy choosing a book title

Blank book cover

My book will be aimed at those who are dreaming of starting their own design business, or who have already started and are looking for some help to take them to the next level. It’ll be the title I wish I’d read a few years ago (although I know I’m going to learn a lot writing it).

The title was going to be The Business of Design, but it’s already published. Then Nikki suggested Business Designed to tie-in with Identity Designed. Great idea, but someone’s sitting on the domain and my purchase request led to nowt.

Then Bernadette pitched in with these two ideas:

  1. Working in Design
  2. The Design Startup

Update: 10 February 2011
The chat in the comment thread has ruled out The Design Startup, and there’s now a third option in the mix: Work for Money — Design for Love.

I’ve registered both .coms, so it’s down to one of those, along with the likely subtitle of, “Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.”

I ran both names past Blair, who suggested that Working in Design may lead to confusion about the target market. It could imply design employment, as opposed to self-employment. Fair point. Nikki liked both, but thought The Design Startup could imply I had some unique product or service to sell, which wouldn’t be ideal. Another fair point. She said Peachpit’s salespeople would love Working in Design.

Which do you prefer?

Keep in mind they’ll appear alongside the provisional subtitle.

1/ Working in Design: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business

2/ The Design Startup: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business

So it’s down to number 1/ or number 3/ Work for Money — Design for Love.

Bernadette kindly pitched an alternative subtitle, too, with optional word in brackets: “Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a (Successful) Design Business.”

← Older post

Newer post →


  1. The book is about both “design” and “business”. What about “The Design Business Startup”? Or something in the title that implies a design business. Otherwise, I think that the subtitle will tell all about the book. “The Design Startup” is my favorite and I think it fits nicely.

    Loved your first book, David, and can’t wait to read your next one.

  2. I like the sound of “Working in Design: Everything You Need to Know About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.”

  3. Hmmm… not really sold on either of them two titles. No alternative suggestions just yet but I feel as though you could do a lot better.

  4. Amy Morgan

    The Design Startup is a title that makes it most clear to your audiance what the book is about. If they did think it was about a new product or idea, and they were starting their own design business, this may well still trigger their interest, at which point they’d read the gubbins and find out what it is about.

    Win win.

  5. What about doing a play on the initial name, so instead of ‘The Business Of Design’ how about ‘Designing Business’ or ‘Designing Businesses’? (Unless they are already taken)?

    An alternative (tying in with your suggestions) could be ‘Designing A Business For Startups’?

  6. I like the first one more. Paired with the subtitle, I don’t think it will confuse anyone that it’s about self-employment.

    I’m also looking forward to getting a copy :)

  7. When paired with the subtitle, I like Working in Design the best. It gives a sense of longevity and continuing in design, as opposed to just starting something. You can incorporate more into a book like that as well.

  8. The Design Startup.

  9. I can’t help but hear Working InDesign and see Purple adobe gradients and grey toolbars.

    Might be just me.

    How about dropping “the” and FAQ?

    “Design Startup: Starting and Running a Successful Design Business”

    Glad to see a new book is on the way.

  10. David, I prefer ‘Working in Design’ but not really sold on either title.

    I have reservations about using the title ‘The Design Startup’ as it might dissuade a large segment of your potention market from even looking at a review and sample pages. Obviously I don’t know what your content will be but in my experience books aimed at startup businesses are often of equal, if not greater, benefit to people who are in business and know their weaknesses. A lot of people find themselves continuously working to short- and mid-term goals and deadlines. At the same time they know that they need to set, and implement, a road map for recalibrating their work practices, and mindset.
    Too many of us are doing far too much ‘long work’ instead of concentrating on the type of ‘hard work’ that builds reputations. We need to be working smarter and become more open to adapting to business and cultural changes. That being the case, and given the high esteem I hold ‘Logo Design Love’ in, I will be buying your book but I am no longer a startup. I image most people who are commenting here will also be buying your book but are also no longer startups.
    Then again, new clients can make us feel like a startup, such is the speed of change in our business and the increased (mis)education and expectations of our clients.

  11. I like the “The Design Startup” direct and straight to the point—like I hope the book will be. :)

  12. Averill Buchanan

    Agree with Yaco Roca: Design Startup (but drop the ‘The’).

    I’d also be tempted to play around with upstart/startup, since you need to be a bit of an upstart to make it these days.

    (I’m a recovering designer who now works freelance in publishing)

  13. Hi David, I’m not really sold on either of them, they both seem to sound rather like a dull corporate text books rather than an interesting (and hopefully light and witty) read. I would also mistake this as something more to do with a traditional business setup rather than about self employment. So how about something more inspiring/rock and roll? (I’m hoping something will pop into my head and I can get back to you on this!).

    I understand that you need to reserve domain names but perhaps it would be better to start writing and see what turns up? I thought book names were left till last?

  14. Hi Timothy, I want to keep the domain name under 14 characters in length (if possible). is 15 and is 16. So when you consider, it’s a little long, but thanks for the shout-out.

    Iain, that is a nice combo. Cheers. Chatting more with Bernadette, and following advice from Nikki, I think it’s better to say “everything you want” rather than “everything you need” because this won’t be a one-stop resource on design business. There are other books that cater to that. This is going to be what my readers are most interested in.

    Amy, that’s a good point. Jason made another that’s swinging my vote toward Working in Design when he said, “It gives a sense of longevity and continuing in design, as opposed to just starting something.” (Thanks, Jason.)

    David, I’ve found it near impossible to find a decent two-word domain. is taken, and I’ve never been great at saying the word ‘businesses’.

    Andrew, thanks very much for the support.

    Yaco,’s taken, hence adding ‘the’. Perhaps by using ‘indesign’ within the domain I can pick-up a few readers searching for software help?

    Brian, your input’s backing-up what Jason said about longevity. My publisher hinted at creating a series of “design love” books, with this one called Business Design Love, but I’m keen to separate the two titles, and I think initially I was never totally sold on Logo Design Love. But there’s comes a point when you’ve gotta pick something and focus on the content — once a name is selected, necessarily at the beginning, there’s a big process involved getting it changed.

    Jahanzeb, no fluff. That’s definitely the aim.

    Averill, interesting profession switch. I hope it’s working-out?

  15. Once the ball’s in motion, Richard, a title’s necessary for marketing purposes. So alas, now’s the time (although I think I might have a month or so). If anything more inspiring crops up, please do let me know.

  16. David, what about something like
    “Get Design’d: Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a (Successful) Design Business.” =)

  17. What about (as a complete title) ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Starting a Design Business’

  18. Another thought for you, David, is that if you put “Business” more towards the start of the subtitle, it will be more noticeable that its about business vs the word being more towards the end. People will skim and will notice the start of a sentence more than the end of a sentence.

  19. Trevor Kluke

    Hey David,

    Happy to hear you have a new book on the way! I have been meaning to send you a photo of me holding Logo Design Love which I got for my birthday last month.

    I think ‘The Design Startup’ is the stronger of the two. I thought of a couple names on my lunch break:

    Open for Designess

    Best of luck and look forward to the release.


  20. #2. Can’t wait to read it!

  21. Thanks Averill, and David.

    There are pros/cons to that, like the likelihood that people searching for inDesign articles are likely to be designers, which helps, but you’d also be competing for in-design search engine rankings.

    Just ran the search though and nothing too impressive shows up for the title, so it might be a good name search-engine-wise.

    Only 922M results, vs 1,670M for the “the Design Startup” (Google).

    I agree with Richard in that both sound quite corporate-textbookish, though the book’s design would help set the tone.

    Either way, I’d still suggest shortening the subtitle to:

    “Title: Starting and Running a Successful Design Business”, much easier to skim over.

  22. The whole concept of setting up a company and starting a business is being reduced to the keyword “startup”. The way I see it, people are getting use this word as a way to express “starting a business”, so I believe you have a winner title with “The Design Startup”.

  23. The Design Startup has my vote.

    I also look forward to reading the book.


  24. I much prefer ‘Working in Design’ David.
    Honestly, from a consumers point of view, I don’t think I’d experience confusion when reading the title. If I was looking for a book to help me start up in freelance graphic design ;) I think Working in Design works. ‘The Design Setup’ is okay, but I think it’s too cliché and a little corporate – which you are not.

  25. Of the two titles, I like Working in Design best.

    The main reason for this is that Working in Design sounds more solid than The Design Startup.

    The secound reason for this is that I think Working In Design cover the subtitle: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business, better than The Design Startup.

    Here is a third suggestion:
    Selling Design: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.

    Keep drawing and writing!

  26. I think The Design Startup nails it.

    My only concern with this title is whether the word ‘Startup’ will still be in such wide use as a description for a new business in a few years’ time

  27. Hmmm… put me in the boat that isn’t sold on either. I like Bernadette’s subtitle suggestion best. A couple other options…

    Employing Design: Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.

    Designing a Firm: Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.

    Graphic Design, Inc.: Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.

  28. Sometime making the title longer can help. I remember film titles like ‘Everything you wanted to know about sex but were too afraid to ask’ or book title like Bob Gills ‘forget all the rules about design including the ones in this book’.

    So how about “This book is aimed at those who are thinking of, or who have started their own design business”. Or “First steps in design”.

  29. To be honest any of the titles mentioned will do. You will always find someone who will interpret it the wrong way!

  30. How about “A Business Designed: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business”? is available.

    It’s not under 14 characters (17) but is close.

  31. As you say David, book titles are hard. In fact naming anything gets more complicated as domain availability, social network handles and IP come into the equation. That’s why five and six figure naming firms can exist.

    Now ask twenty people for an opinion and you’ll likely get very different answers.

    Looking forward to hearing your ideas Nido.

    Richard I think David wants to go with a weightier title that he feels will stand the test of time and something clean and simple. Hence this approach. Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup was hailed as the idea of the year in 2011. Timeless.
    I did run a couple o less traditional options by him too :).

    Brian, what do you think would work better?

    Lee one of my favourite book titles is, It’s not how good you are it’s how good you want to be. Adren was a genius.

    Yep Ian it is. I suggested that too.

    Great feedback.

  32. ‘Working in Design’ has my vote. Looking forward to the next book!

  33. Hi David,

    I’m not going to waste your time with alternate suggestions, as you already have it narrowed down to two.

    I cast my vote for “Working in Design”.

    The idea behind any start-up is to stay in business. For designers, that means working in design.

  34. Even I feel Working in Design looks like an apt name for your book, as it will help in generating a curiosity in the newbies who have recently sarted their own design business.. Much better than the other one!

  35. They sound like textbooks David, but if you’re set on either, I vote for “Working in Design”. If you’re still open to suggestions, I’d go for something fun like “I’m a designer, not a salesman!!!” but I do understand you have to consider SEO and all that. Anyway, whichever you use, we’ll still buy and promote it.

  36. Hi David,
    Both suggestions by Bernadette are pretty straightforward but I don’t think the title ‘The design startup’ will do complete justice to your book subject. According to you, apart from aiming at designers who are thinking of starting a their own business, the book will also aim at those who are into the business, so the above title doesn’t relate to the latter category of readers. If you have to choose from these two options, then I believe,’Working in Design’ is the better one but don’t stop here on these two options only. I am sure there is a better title for your book.
    Anyway, whichever title you choose I am going to buy your book for sure.
    Best of luck.
    Deepak Chawla

  37. Dan, using a longer title in a Bob Gill/Paul Arden way is definitely something I considered, championed by the ever-helpful Lee Newham. Lee and I were swapping emails when he coined this snappy title:

    “Being small, working from a home office, being ethical, getting incredibly busy, having to turn thousands of pounds of work away, letting clients know you can’t work with them due to other work, letting clients know you don’t want to work with them because they don’t fit with the philosophy of your company, treating clients as friends, the disruption and stress of having a baby, not having a proper website, presenting, public speaking to grow your business, create your own luck, do what you believe in, and how doing lots of work in the local community paid off big time.”

    It does have a certain ring to it.

    Trevor, I hope you enjoy Logo Design Love. Sincere thanks to your gift-giver, and if you’re left with any questions after reading, you’re very welcome to get in touch.

    Yaco, you’re spot on about the book’s design helping set the tone. Nikki was talking to me about just that. She used The Manual as a great example. Who wants to read a manual? But the cover/content design tells its own story:

    Ian, thanks for checking the availability. That’s another one pitched by Bernadette (if a future client needs help with brand-naming, I’ll be getting in touch with her: The Story of Telling).

    Grace, at the same time, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if the title sounds textbook-ish. It’d be amazing if the book was incorporated into school reading lists (a massive market).

    Deepak, valid point, made a few times so far (about the book helping those who have already started — not just those starting).

    A huge thanks for everyone’s comments. Fantastic feedback.

  38. David it would be great if the book were adopted by design schools. I think it’s the kind of text that’s sorely needed.

    I’ve had several designer clients who say that in college they teach you to design but they don’t teach you about the ‘real work of design’.

    The reality is that there’s a lot more to being a freelance designer than just being a great designer.

  39. Amber Nation

    David, out of the two that you mention this one leads, but I too think that there is something better.

    2/ The Design Startup: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business

    I also prefer this subtitle over “Everything You Want…” because sometimes you don’t get everything you want in one resource.

    Design As Business?


  40. I am not sold on either name but I hope you love whatever decision you make. It has to be difficult but at this same time next year I’m sure that you will love whatever you end up picking.

    Like so many others I will offer my two cents. How about The Process of Business: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business and the url would be

    Love your work! Have a great one!

    Ian C.

  41. Hello David,

    I like ‘The Design Startup’ it sounds as thought it takes everything into account, a bit trendy too!

    Best wishes

  42. Thanks David.

    Any designer will learn a lot about running a design business by working in the design business. When you had HND courses and BA courses they were distinct. I did a HND (which was more business orientated, at least in Somerset) and we were taught French and business studies. I have to say I don’t think it helped that much (especially the French which would have been better spent on design). I think what David is doing will be incredibly helpful to anyone working freelance and dealing with clients. But there is no substitute for working in a good agency, learning how to present work, deal with clients, get new work, how to art direct, work with others, run a job and all the other jobs designers have to do.

  43. Its worth looking Minale Tattersfields book ‘How to run a multi-diciplinerary Design Consultancy’.

  44. My vote (out of those two) is for The Design Startup, but I like Yaco Roca’s subtitle suggestion better. Short and simple and to the point. I look forward to seeing the finished copy!

  45. I love your books. How about:

    Design Biz Startups
    Startup in the Design Biz

    I think using Biz instead of business will set your book apart from business books.

  46. What sort of a budget do you have to test the name?

    If you have say $2,000 to test (and promote the book a bit), you could run an adwords campaign to see which title gets a better response.

    The setup would essentially be:
    1) make an ad that is your book title + subtext
    2) choose keywords that target your customers. For example, you can bid on keywords like “how to start a design business”, “graphic design startup”, “start a design business”, “graphic design feelancing tips” (not sure if that one fits)

    This is actually quite easy for you, with all your analytics keyword data, plus google’s adwords tool for estimating volumes of keywords:

    This was something that Tim Ferris did to figure out the title of his book, 4 Hour Work Week:

    Drop me a line if you want further advice :)

    Evan Jerkunica

  47. Hi David,

    I’m not 100% sure on either to be honest. I keep thinking Business InDesign when I see suggestion 1. The second feels like it could alienate a few potential buyers (like lots of your existing readers) who are already established with the reference to “startup”.

    I like the idea of linking in with your other publications i.e Business Designed. On that theme, what about:

    Business Design Love
    A guide to starting and running a successful design business

  48. Yurun Cai

    Hello, David Airey.
    I’m a new college student from Taiwan.
    I just bought your book “LOGO DESIGN LOVE” yesterday, and today I searched your name then found this blog!
    It is really good and it help me get my courage back to do my school works about clothing design!

  49. Between the options 1 and 2, I prefer the 2nd.

    But I think the 3rd option — “Everything You Want to Know About Starting and Running a (Successful) Design Business.” — it’s much better!

  50. I like The Design Startup, clear and to the point. The subtitle can help refine the target market.

Leave a Reply