The benefits of creatives managing themselves

At New York-based studio XXIX, project management is the remit of the designers and developers in the team. We speak to co-founder Jacob Heftmann about how it all works, and what clients and creatives stand to gain

When people start a venture of their own, its founding principles usually use previous workplaces either as a blueprint or as an example of what not to do. Design and development studio XXIX, which is headquartered in New York, was unconsciously modelled on the latter. “A lot of agencies are structured on, ‘This is how things are done’. We came at it like, ‘That didn’t seem to work so great. Why does it need to be that way?’,” recalls the studio’s co-founder Jacob Heftmann.

This meant the type of work they would do but also crucially how they would do it. “There was a grab bag of ideas that we’d taken with us and tried to incorporate in this new thing, which I think is normal when you’re starting something new – you’re a bit young and naïve. We didn’t really know what any of it meant. We just went, ‘Let’s try this’, and one of them was this idea of project management.”

What began partly as a way of minimising costs evolved to become a core part of how the studio operates over ten years later. At XXIX, most of the project management is done by the studio’s own design and development staff, rather than people who come from a more typical project management background. Heftmann believes that it can not only help to create a sense of responsibility (rather than dumping all of the administrative work on someone else) but also benefits clients and creatives alike.