The Graceful Exit of a Design Studio ‘Hawraf’

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The young partners of Design Studio Hawraf, shut down their studio with grace and dignity, and let the world into the inner workings of their business.

When you dream of establishing your own design studio, you’ve got your entry into the industry all planned out. Careful thought is put into the business model, marketing strategy, and everything else required to begin. Right till the boat is sailing, the blue print is in place.

But you would never meticulously plan the ‘shutting down’ of your design studio, right? It just seems so bizarre, especially since the goal always is to expand and soar higher. But the death of design firms and companies is a reality. We see far more businesses disappearing than actually making it big. In such a scenario, wouldn’t it make sense to plan the end of your studio as well, instead of simply fading into the background?

As outlandish as that may sound, the New York-based design studio, Hawraf, did just that.


Hawraf was the result of a collaborative relationship between Andrew Herzog, Carly Ayres and Nicky Tesla, who worked together at Google Creative Lab. They founded Hawraf in 2016, and within a short period made quite an impact on the design industry. Hawraf is particularly infamous for its bold and interactive work, and pushing boundaries through lateral design approaches. Hawraf began on the ethos of transparency and increased engagement with users. They believed in being an open book, allowing the whole world to watch as they experimented, failed, learnt, and finally found radical solutions to design problems. An important principle that drove them is questioning conventional solutions and looking for ideas that are most relevant to the problem.

Here is an example of their out-of-the-box ideas. Andrew Herzorg once went around his neighbourhood glueing moss onto fire hydrants and subway stops. It’s a known adage that moss grows on the north side of a wall. As an experiment with wayfinding, Andrew put this idea to practice and pushed the boundaries of traditional design practice.

Design Studio Hawraf

Within no time their design work was recognized and greatly appreciated globally. Andrew was named as one of Print Magazine’s 15 under 30 New Visual Artists, and Carly was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, apart from the very many accolades they received.

Design Studio Hawraf

Yet, early this year the partners announced the end of Hawraf. What is interesting is that their decision to shut down had little to do with the studio success and more to do with their personal goals. After working together and watching the studio unfold and evolve, the partners soon realized that their personal ambitions were misaligned. With this awareness, they took the bold decision to shut down now and go with a bang, instead of struggling to make it work till the business turned sour.

Design Studio Hawraf

But what made this decision truly amazing, is the way they executed their exit. Hawraf was built on the principle of transparency and interaction. Keeping this in mind, they published their internal documents in a public google drive folder, for anyone to refer to.

The public folder serves as a guide to anyone looking to start on their own. Right from proposal decks, to pricing strategy spreadsheets, to do’s and don’ts of company culture, press tips, profits and losses, founders’ values; everything that an entrepreneur would encounter at the start of the venture is addressed in the folder.

In 2016, Hawraf entered the design industry and took the world by storm. And now as they shut down, they leave with equal style.

Design Studio Hawraf


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