If you’ve looked at our site and you’re still dying to know more about Werner Design Werks, we’re answering some frequently (and not so frequently) asked questions. Check back–we’ll be adding more questions (and answers!) as they come up. If there’s something you’d like to know that we haven’t answered yet, please send us an email and we may add your question to this growing list.


The Basics

For Clients

What types of clients do you work with? +

Our clients range from small start-ups to large corporations. Like most design firms, we handle a variety of projects and enjoy the diversity. For the past few years, developing the brand language for consumer products has been a large part of our business. We don’t call ourselves experts in any specific category. Rather we are observant, curious, intuitive consumers and makers. This curiosity has led to projects in the wine and spirits industry, fashion, children’s books & toys, and personal care products, just to name few.

How does a small studio of three people produce all the work? +

Basically, we have an internal process that works well for us. Typically, we all work on most projects in the beginning phases. We’re open to criticism from each other and don’t feel overly protective of our ideas. We’re able to see potential opportunities or pitfalls early on in the others’ rough ideas.

The client has contact with all of us. At some point in the process, usually after the first creative presentation, one of us takes the lead and the others become support.  This can flip back and forth throughout the project. At the end of the project, it’s often difficult to remember exactly whose original idea it was.

Do you intend to grow the studio? +

In 2015, we grew by 50 percent with the addition of one person, our first new hire in 20 years. That said, we’re still a small studio. For now, that’s the way we like it.

Clients have gotten considerably more savvy in the past few years and realize that even in a larger studio, their project is generally done by a small team of people.

We collaborate with talented outside resources as we need them, either to stimulate and generate more ideas or to bring in a specific area of expertise. We can hand-select the exact experience and talent and only pay for the time we need. We get talent with a vested interest who bring varied experiences to the table. Minneapolis-St. Paul is full of talented people that we collaborate with as needed.

How do you describe your style? +

This is difficult to answer because we strive to avoid a studio style. But we do have an approach and way of thinking about projects. Design with style is great, but we believe the client’s personality and project should dictate the style. A few years ago, a Target creative director described our aesthetic sense as “approachable and humanistic design, not always mainstream and easy, but not scary.” That seems to sum it up pretty well.

We want to challenge people’s perception of a product category or surprise them, without confusing them. Why should a cleaning product look like every other cleaning product? Our goal is to capture a consumer’s eye and reward them for broadening their view.

With that said, many of our start-up clients don’t have huge advertising or promotional budgets and we understand that we can’t push the design so far that it requires extensive effort (money) to educate the consumer. The product has to live in a delicate zone where it’s identifiable within its category and yet something they’ve never seen before. We’re always aiming to create a balance between the familiar and the new.

What will my project cost? +

In order to accurately answer that question, we need more project specific information from you. For instance, if you want a brochure, we may ask, ‘What’s the goal of the brochure? What are you trying to say? Who’s the audience? Do you have existing photography or illustration? How many pages or what size are you thinking? Will we be writing it?’ And, lastly, we may even ask, ‘Why a brochure?’

We can tell you that we work on a project basis rather than on an hourly basis. We find this is highly beneficial to you, our client, so you’re not paying for the minutes, hours, or days that we may have designer’s block (and, yes, that happens to everyone at some point). You will also know, before we begin, exactly what your project will cost. Being charged by the hour is like sitting in a taxi stalled in traffic, watching the meter tick versus being quoted the cost to get from your hotel to the airport, no matter the traffic delays. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.

We provide a proposal based on initial conversations with you and any other information you can provide. The proposal will outline what we know about your project and some initial high-level thoughts and possible questions or things to ponder. The project is divided into the phases of development with deliverables and corresponding fees. If we decide to work together, we provide a pretty straightforward Terms of Work Agreement, which outlines such things as copyright and what happens if the project is canceled or put on hold, and so on.

Who owns the copyright? +

Who owns the copyright to your project will be outlined in the Terms of Work agreement. So although we’re not copyright attorneys, in most instances, we believe and agree that, upon final payment by you (the client) of the final invoice, you (the client) own the copyright to the final, selected concept (work product). We (the designers) own the copyright to all the presented concepts that were not selected, unless negotiated otherwise. We (the designers) retain the right to show the final, selected concept (work product) as an example of our work in our portfolio.

That sounded pretty legal, didn’t it?

Can you design my website? +

We design websites within the context of how it pertains to the extension of the brand language that we’ve developed with you. We partner with interactive and web experts to wireframe the site, flesh out the various needs for the site and program it accordingly. For our part, we develop visual templates and brand language as it evolves into the site and we act as creative directors to ensure it’s ‘brand right’.

For Students

Can I schedule an informational interview? +

We’re definitely open to doing informational interviews with students, depending on how busy we are at the time. Please understand, since we are a small studio, it can be extremely difficult to make an interview a priority over looming client deadlines.

I have a report due, can I ask you a few questions? +

Our website is chock-full of information you may find helpful for your report, so please look around before emailing us a lot of basic questions. It’s very time consuming to answer with thoughtful responses and give each question the attention it deserves. On the About Us page, under Awards and Recognition you’ll find links to several interviews and articles that will give you more content. Of course, after that, if you still have a burning question or two, feel free to contact us by email or phone and we’d be happy to chat. We may add the question/response to the FAQ’s.

What if I want an internship? +

Periodically, we do offer internships. It depends on what we have going on in the office. The best scenario for you and for us is when we’re busy enough that you get a useful experience, but not so busy that we can’t take the time to guide you and create a productive teaching situation.

Generally, our interns are in their last year of school so they have a bit more design knowledge and understand the basic software. With a small staff, it’s difficult to offer guidance on these fundamentals. Also, we will introduce you to other designers and design studios you might be interested in working with after your internship. This is far more effective if you’re ready to launch into your career.

And if you’re wondering if we pay our interns; yes, of course, we do. Because we want you to have more school experience, our hope is that you’re also ready to offer something to WDW. And for that, you should be paid. Generally it’s a set amount for a set period of time, usually 3 months.

What does an intern do? Everything. Because we are a small studio, we all need to do everything, from taking out the garbage to designing an identity. We’d expect the same from you. Depending on the projects in the studio, you might develop new concepts, carry out an existing design language, or empty the dishwasher. A can-do, will-do attitude is essential.

So what’s our review process? First send us an introductory email with a link to your site or attach a PDF of work and a little about yourself. If we’re looking for an intern, and we think you might be a good fit, we’ll contact you. Be prepared to tell us why you’re interested in WDW, what you hope to get from the experience, and why you’re a good fit for us. If we’re currently not looking for an intern, your work could inspire us to change our mind, so don’t hesitate to send us your work!

What do we look for in an intern? Personality and talent, of course. Because we’re a small studio, the right personality is key. Quirky, good. Smart, good. Funny, good. Attitude, bad. Snarky (sometimes sarcastic), good. Off the wall, really good. Tech savvy, good. Professional (when necessary), good. Not above spewing Diet Coke from your nose when appropriate, good. Proficient in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, absolutely. Web/digital/app design, good. Programming, bonus, but not necessary.

Should I work for free to build a portfolio? +

We’d like to scream NO! from the highest mountain. Doing speculative work is not good. Here’s a great site that explains it better than we can: nospec.com. We do realize it’s difficult to build a portfolio when you’re just starting out. In our opinion, ‘real world projects’ are not essential for a student portfolio. We’d much prefer to see expansive ‘what if’ concept thinking not held back by client constraints.

Yes, working with clients can be challenging, and some people might say that seeing how you navigated those challenges can be useful. But turning compromise into opportunities is a skill that often takes years to acquire. It’s not taught in school. We’d rather see a body of amazingly smart, beautiful, creative, well-crafted work.

Are you hiring? +

Not right now. But we are often looking for freelance talent and, occasionally, an intern–so feel free to send us your work! If something comes up, we’ll be in touch.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? +

Hm. That’s a tough one. We’d probably have to borrow someone else’s…like the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Smart, sassy, and stylish, living in Minneapolis, turning the world on with her smile and making it all seem worthwhile sounds about right. Especially when Joan Jett is rocking it: http://youtu.be/zWQHhKrdtSA


I've written a book! How do I get it published? +

Congratulations! Unfortunately, we don’t really have any practical advice for getting published. Our own experience with publishing a series of children’s books was really due to luck. We didn’t set out to be authors and we didn’t seek out a publisher. We designed a poster for the Type Directors Club and, thanks to that, we were approached by two different publishers wanting to do a children’s book based on that poster art. You can read more about our adventures with the TDC and Alphabeasties.

Despite our irregular path to becoming authors, we’ve been asked this same question many times. We recently saw this article, So you’ve written a children’s book…now what? by one of our favorite publishers, Chronicle Books, which we think contains excellent advice and tips.

Yes, but you must know SOMETHING about getting a book published, right? +

Well, in our experience, it helps to have as much of your book figured out as possible. If it’s a children’s book, do you have illustrations? Do you have the entire manuscript? What about a cover design? With this, however, it’s very helpful to be open to changes and suggestions.

Find a publisher you trust; they know their market (athough there’s something to be said for a fresh ‘non-publishing’ perspective).

Do you have any favorite publishers? +

Yes! We love working with Blue Apple Books, the publishers of Alphabeasties. Their dedication to high quality children’s books is outstanding. Chronicle Books, well known for their keen eye for design, is a pleasure to work with and they publish some of the most visually interesting books in the market. Melcher Media is a book packager who produces really amazing, high quality books. We worked with them on the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home book. Of course, it depends on the kind of book that you want to publish. Do some research in the category.

Werner Design Werks
147 East Tenth Street
Saint Paul, MN 55101

(651) 291-2660