What’s Mule Doing Now?

Mike Monteiro
Mule Design Studio
Published in
3 min readFeb 6, 2019


Seventeen years ago Erika Hall and I started a design studio. We wanted to do work that people needed. We wanted to be able to choose the projects we worked on. And we wanted to make some sort of difference in the world. All that stuff is still true. Everything else has changed.

Seventeen years ago people needed websites. Websites were hard to make. And most places didn’t employ the people who could make them. It made sense to hire out for that. So we put up a big sign on the door. “We make websites.” And that worked well for a while. In fact, if I’m being honest, it probably worked better than either of us had any right to expect it to work.

The more we got hired to make websites, the more we realized that the actual problems we were solving wasn’t “lack of website” it was was lack of organizational clarity. So we’d get paid to deliver a website and we’d end up helping people with reorgs, with company strategy, with workflow process, and other things of that nature. And we decided we liked that part of the job a lot more. That turned out to be fortuitous.

In the seventeen years between opening our shop and our present day, a couple of really important things happened. First, websites got easier to make. At least the simple ones. Secondly, people started hiring internal teams for the harder ones. Which, again if we’re being honest, was a really smart move for organizations to make.

We were ok with this because we enjoyed the other stuff more. We like helping people figure out why they’re doing stuff more than we like figuring out the how part of making things. I know this makes us odd. But hey, you get to benefit from us being odd. So win win.

So last year we started shifting over to focusing on that stuff. You can’t hire us to make websites anymore. But you can still hire us to do things you need even more than that. Let’s go over some of them:

You can hire us for workshops. (Some of you might call it training. Same same.) We love that stuff. And we’re good at it. Give us a day and we can teach your staff how to run research, or present their work with confidence, or design ethics (turns out this is important!), how to communicate with each other. We even have an amazing workshop for women in tech. We’ve hired and worked with a lot of people over the years. And we’re teaching the stuff that we found schools didn’t teach, but employees need to know.

We’ve also written a few books. (Soon to be five!) A couple of which we’ve turned into workshops. Conversational Design, which is all the rage for talking to invisible people in your kitchen. And Design Is a Job, which has become the go-to book for being a professional designer. So yeah, bring us into your companies and we’ll teach the books.

Give us a day, and we’ll get your team working together around the same table. Give us six weeks and we’ll coach you towards new capabilities. If you need to go deep, we can do a complete Discovery and get everyone clear on the why before you scale up the how. Strategy is just another word for being as intentional and well-informed as you are ambitious. Every organization of any size needs to be strategic.

We’ll come in and help you figure out how to talk to your customers. How to look at your competitive landscape. How to put together a project plan to achieve your goals. And yes, this stuff generally takes longer than a day. But spending time on this stuff saves a lot of time down the road.

And this is how we can work with the amazing teams everybody is building.

Oh, and we’re still more than happy to speak at your conferences, be on your podcasts, or write articles for your publications.

TL;DR: You can still give Mule money to do things. Lots of money! And, as always, you’ll end up making more off the results than you spent on hiring us.



Mike Monteiro
Mule Design Studio

English is my second language. You were my first.