Studio Visit Etiquette

So my family is planning a summer trip to New York and I was thinking it would be cool to visit some design studios while I am there. I am not currently looking for work. It would just be to say hi and take a quick tour. For you Creative Directors out there would you consider this rude or imposing? and what do you think would be the preferred way to set such a visit up?


Not rude or imposing at all. You are a professional, think about what you would want if someone was asking for your time. Here is what I would do:

  1. ask well in advance, be open to a range of times, and make sure you communicate that talking with a designer would be great if the director is busy, make it as easy for them as possible
  2. send a link to your portfolio (i.e. they aren’t going to spend time with you if you are not good, most likely, no portfolio probably means no visit)
  3. bring a gift, a bag of coffee is a good example, it is just a nice gesture, donuts, cookies from a posh bakery… They are taking their time out. Designers love sweets and coffee in general, I’ve had graphic designers bring cool prints from their portfolio (double win)
  4. bring your portfolio, don’t force it on them, but be ready if they ask to see work
  5. be self ware, if people seem stressed and running around like crazy, keep it to 15-20 minutes, give them an out after 30, as simple as “are you good on time?”
  6. send a thank you email after

I think it’s more realistic to arrange a quick coffee than a studio visit, IMHO.
New York studios rarely have time for extraneous tours, especially if you’re not even on the job hunt. But we ALWAYS HAVE TIME FOR COFFEE.

I agree with hatts, visiting a studio will be limited to spending time in their lobby. Our policy is and was no tours, it takes too much time to take down confidential materials. We only did that for large paying customers.

Buying someone coffee is an easier bet. But I also agree with yo’s 6 steps, that’s just being professional.

I suppose everyone’s policies will be different so be prepared for some no’s.

In our corporate studio, we give tours fairly often but usually they are invited guests of the company (prospective clients, partners, or occasionally students/schools but usually larger groups that have some affiliation, not individuals).

There is a lot of potentially secret IP hanging up around certain studios, so it may be a challenge to find one that is willing to let someone in to see the secret sauce. Some studios I’ve been to are good about keeping project work in closed rooms, but without that it’s just a bunch of guys sitting at computers with their heads down.

It might be worth seeing if there are any Linkedin or IDSA meetups when you’re in town. Designers do love beer in addition to coffee.

Flattery always works. I’ve have made contact with alumni of where I studied ID, who have gone on to have international careers, by emailing them and asking their advice about their careers. Everyone likes being asked about their work.

I’ve arranged studio visits by contacting people on this forum, by pretty much following Yo’s advice. I didn’t bring food though but I did buy coffee. It did take some time to organise- people are busy so the visit will be when they are free, it might take a few weeks.

I also would bring portfolio/ models/ pieces with you, even if it’s just the webpage ready to be shown on your phone. I recently arranged a local studio visit, which I set up as an informal look around, so I expected it to be casual, and it was more like a job interview, which I wasn’t quite prepared for. I didn’t have paper portfolio with me but I had stuff to show on my phone as well as by chance some prototypes I’d been working on in my bag. I suppose the lesson is be prepared.

On the downside, I have organised a visit in another city weeks in advance, and when I got there, the day before the visit was due, it was cancelled. You need to be prepared for this and be gracious and take it on the chin, but it is a p.i.t.a.