What Level is Your Design Business?

Leyden Lewis: The Road to AD100 and Elle Decor Top 125 Requires Innovation and Authentic Creativity

Episode 703 of A Well-Designed Business®

Today with Leyden Lewis

Welcome to a Well-Designed Business. We talk a lot about the business side of design—from niching to raising your rates to processes and systems. But today, we’re talking about the root of design—creativity. Bringing creativity and innovation to your design not only establishes you as a designer, it also levels up the value you bring to your clients. My guest today, Leyden Lewis, is certainly an innovator and a visionary. He’s sharing his insights into designing from the heart, creating irreplicable work, and drawing inspiration from the world.  

Pick it apart:

  • [3:47] LuAnn and Leyden reminisce on their friendship and working relationship. 
  • [18:00] Leyden highlights what he has learned in hindsight from his career. 
  • [34:15] LuAnn and Leyden discuss how creativity and innovation play such a vital role in design. 
  • [42:45] Leyden shares how finding the Black Artists + Designers Guild reignited his career. 
  • [55:08] Leyden gives his input on the shift in opportunities for designers of Color.

LuAnn and Leyden Lewis’s Ah-Ha moments:

“Be aware that your own maturation, your own age, your own marketing and financial literacy has to tie in. If anything, I learned everything that I know about my business from a series of amazing exposure and failures. Everyone’s story is the same in that regard. We all make errors or misjudgments.” -Leyden Lewis


“In five and a half years doing this business, almost every successful designer who has been on the show agrees, it almost always comes down to relationships. It’s the relationships you make, it’s the way you care for them. The internet is going to be there, but what I want to say to the younger designers is don’t negate the relationships.” -LuAnn Nigara


“I’m an outlier. I try to push myself. I bring the fierceness and the robustness and the pushing of the design envelope to my own work. Of course, I have done simple designs for clients who do not want to be pushed, but wherever there’s an opportunity, I push the envelope. Because design for me is an absolutely organic concept. I think it should be evolving, I think it should reflect the times that we’re in, the conditions, the people, the cultural shifts. To me, design is not static.” -Leyden Lewis

More about Leyden Lewis:

Leyden Lewis Design Studio is a Brooklyn-based firm that over the last thirty years has created poetic and culturally sensitive spaces and furniture in the United States and around the world. 

Founder and Creative Director Leyden Lewis is a trained architect  with a background which encompasses the culturally rich Caribbean heritage of Trinidad and Tobago, urban sophistication, and classical European Modernism. Leyden Lewis Design Studio has been included in the Elle Decor’s A-List top 125 designers in the world in 2019 and 2020,  as well as features in Architectural Digest by Carly Olson,  New York Magazine – The Cut by Wendy Goodman, a TV feature on Open House TV on NBC, House Beautiful by Hadley Keller. 

As a fine artist, his work has been exhibited widely and has received much acclaim, in 2004, Leyden Lewis was invited by the curator Thelma Golden to participate in the Harlemworld: Metropolis and Metaphor show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Critic Herbert Muschamp referred to Lewis’s work as “the poetic heart” of the exhibition. When it is desirable, Leyden Lewis Design Studio assists and consults with building art collections for clients.

Connect with Leyden Lewis:




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Mydoma is your complete designer toolkit, the place for you to manage all of your projects, from time tracking to communication to product approvals, so that you can free your time up to focus on your business and serve your clients. You can get started today and save 20% off your first three months at mydomastudio.com/awelldesignedbusiness.


Other Shows Mentioned: 

#587 Darrell Long: The Best Design Comes From Within, Not Pinterest

What Level is Your Design Business?