How we are building a radically different Design Studio from India.
Last Updated: October 19, 2022.
Lazy Eight was founded in 2016 by Nav Chatterji, with the aim to not only build a world-class design studio out of India but to fundamentally rethink how one can be built from the ground up. This article is about the latter. Enjoy.
1. Our Office.
Aim: A Fully Remote, Zero Infrastructure Model.
We have no actual office, just a simple virtual office address for snail mail and regulatory paperwork, where we spend INR 25,000/ year (~$300). This has allowed us to focus on hiring the best regardless of their location.
Our studio is a “meta” studio where our team members plug in and work. It’s a virtual space powered by our bot (more on the bot later) showing when our team members are working, on what, and from where — real-time. You can check out live meta office on our website.
2. Our Org Structure
Aim: A Flat, Pseudonymous Organisation.
Lazy Eight is a flat organization and has two roles: Principals (senior designers and engineers) and Associates (young, upcoming talent). We are top-heavy by design (~ 90% Principals, 10% Associates). This enables smaller, nimble, and more senior engagement teams.
Since our founding in 2016, we have been pseudonymous. All our team members go by hex colour codes and not names. This concept was adopted because of the “Don Draper” effect. We want Lazy Eight to be judged for its work and as an agency as a unit and not by any individual: “industry celebrity”, race, accent, or [fill adjective].
3. Our CEO
Aim: To Make Decisions Based on Data, not Emotions.
In 2017, we built an AI bot and named it ACHT (Automated Calculator of Honest Time spent, also stands for eight in German). The aim initially was to measure our atomic unit, which is time input, and then eventually build data models off of it. In the last 5 years, the good news is that we have and that too something we believe is our secret sauce and what fundamentally sets us apart from any other design studio/agency in India if not the world. Below are a few examples of how data collected by ACHT helps us make decisions and why we often times refer to ACHT as our CEO.
A). Efficiency Data Model.
Data collected by ACHT allows us to build efficiency indexes across different tasks. We can then compare our team members and see who is using their time wisely and who isn’t. Our efficiency indexes also allow us to test new hires during their probation period.
B). Hiring Data Model.
We cap our team members to 80 hours per month (more on this later). ACHT thus helps us measure individual utilisation rates as well as vertical utilisation averages. eg. Let’s say our branding team is consistently hitting 90%+ utilisation rates, it signals our HR team to bring on more new team members into the branding team or vice versa.
C). Pricing Data Model.
Since we measure utility rates, we can get a broad idea of the demand for our services. We use this to calculate the hourly pricing we charge clients. eg. If there is more demand (higher utilisation rates) the price goes up. We update this price every quarter.
D). Estimate Data Model.
We have now worked with close to 350 clients on ~1000+ projects. ACHT has measured the work input for nearly all these projects. What this data has allowed us to do is calculate capped estimates for clients almost instantaneously by looking at comparable past projects.
E). Compensation Data Model.
Our compensation model is broken into 2 parts: Hours Billed and Profit Sharing.
- Hours Billable
Compensation for our team members is a function of the hours measured by ACHT and billed to clients as well as the current hourly price. ie. if we are doing well and the demand for our services is high, our hourly price goes up, this in-turn means our team members get higher compensation per hour. We have also built a neat dashboard for our team members that allows them to keep track.
2. Profit Sharing
Outside of the regular comp, we have profit sharing for all our Principals. The math is fairly simple:
[Lifetime hourly input of a Principal] / [Lifetime hourly input of all Principals] = Principal %
[Principal %] x [Profits/Fund ROI] = Principal’s Profit Distribution.
We do a profit distribution twice a year. Also a Principal continues getting profit share/fund ROI even if they leave or take a sabbatical as long as their Principal % stays above 0.5%.
4. Our Work Hours
Aim: To Promote Work Life Balance.
We limit our team members to 80 hours a month. Why? Creative agencies for a long time have been known for their incredibly long work/at office hours. We wanted to radically rethink that. Creatives at the top of their game need time to rejuvenate and explore other things in life. This ability to unplug to pursue other passions, and work on other projects is a creative’s whetstone. We thus wanted to promote that.
5. Our Lab.
Aim: A Space for Radical Experimentation and Projects.
When not working on client projects, our team members collaborate with each other on experiments or team up to build their own side hustles/startups. If the startup makes sense we fund it, build a team around it and then spin it out. Yup, we decided to build our meta lab on a beach (why not :p).
Bonus: Enjoy our 404 Page.
We created a fun 404 page that is inspired by Space Invaders that is a game encouraging people to wear a mask during theCovid crises. Click here to play.