Carol Mackay

In 2018 I made a change.

Thirty-three years after founding Mackay Branson design, I closed the studio and pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. I’m now co-CEO of the Design Business Council.

DBC helps Australian creatives manage their business better - more effectively, more efficiently and more sustainably - so they can spend more time designing. Business management is not something you learn at uni. It’s usually learnt on the job and that can be time consuming and – trust me – expensive. We know there are better ways.

Running a design practice, my mantra was:
Design brings clarity to complex issues.
From clarity comes understanding.
Understanding leads to knowledge.
I still practice this belief, but now it’s to help designers de-mystify the complexities of managing a small business.

With the DBC I:

• actively research new ways for designers to work and do business. We talk to design studio owners here and globally.

• write. In 2013 we wrote and published The Business of Design, still the only book about starting, managing and growing an Australian design studio. We wrote a Financial Handbook for designers and we share free content via a weekly newsletter

• network. Our paid gigs supplement monthly networking breakfasts for designers in Melbourne and Sydney to discuss the business of design face-to-face. And we run Unseminars – topical forums to discuss the challenges of running a design practice.

• mentor design studio owners on an as-needed basis to build their capabilities and via formal programs like our monthly Chair program and

• teach. We run short and long programs online, we run workshops in-house and we speak publicly about the business of design.

Like AGDA, the core of our business is around building of a design community. That’s important because over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means we don’t have the same support network other professionals do. And it means learning ‘on-the-job’ is harder.

Outside of DBC, I mentor designers directly and indirectly, through AGDA and Womentor, and and I’m an active participant in Never Not Creative.

Oh, and I draw. :)

You can find more information about Design Business Council at and

An archive of my design work can be seen at


Mackay Branson Design


Selected clients

Designers wanting to move into management positions like Design Manager
Studio Manager
General Manager or Operations Manager.

Freelancers wanting to manage their micro-business better.

Design studio owners wanting to hone their business management skills.