If you’re a designer working in a corporation or organization, you know the game has changed. And you have to step up your skills to stay in it. Working with program partners Ed Roberts and Andy Brenits, the HOW Design Live team has crafted an all-new In-house Management program for Atlanta that will help you do just that. We recently spoke with Roberts and Brenits about what’s new for HOW Design Live in 2016 — and why it’s more critical than ever that in-house designers attend.
You’ve worked in the corporate world — so what do you bring from that experience to the In-house Management program?
Andy Brenits: As corporations large and small build their in-house design, marketing and creative capabilities, my experience on both sides of the table are coming in very handy. I’ve been a freelancer and design studio owner, so I understand how to leverage offsite talent to compliment the capabilities of an in-house team. Since moving in-house over a decade ago, I have built and managed a number of in-house teams of various sizes and disciplines in several different industries. Add the work I’ve done and connections I’ve made as a board member of InSource, and I can bring a wide-ranging set of experiences and subject-matter expertise to programming for HOW Design Live.
Ed Roberts: Firsthand knowledge. I’m just as much an attendee as I am a program planning partner. Working as a creative in corporate America for more than 15 years has presented a series of challenges that have transformed into career-enhancing opportunities. I’ve seen the perception of the in-house agency model evolve from liability to valuable strategic force. A healthy in-house agency is key to the bottom line success of any organization — and the best prescription for someone who contributes to a thriving in-house team is professional development, hands down.
How important is it for in-house design managers to connect with peers in other organizations? What can they all learn from each other?
AB: Connecting with peers is is one of the most important ways in-house managers can learn operational best practices. Since we’re not taught business in design school, learning how others have handled situations is the best education we can get. Even if you do have formal business training, nothing beats hearing the real-life experiences of someone who might have encountered the same challenges you’re facing. Having a network of connections you can reach out to for ideas might just be one of the most valuable business assets you can have.
The 2016 In-house Management program is taking a deep dive into the topics in-house designers are talking about most: interactive design, workflow management, developing outside passion projects, managing people, surviving mergers/acquisitions and career transitions. I’m incredibly excited about the program and all the fresh, new faces presenting for the first time. This program is definitely a must-see!
—Ed Roberts, In-house Management program director
By all accounts, creatives are “at the table” in the corporate environment. Which is great, but it means they have to step up their game. How do designers not trained in marketing or business need to prepare themselves for that moment when they’re called upon to contribute strategic thinking?
ER: Excellent question! It was incredible to see the explosive growth of the in-house community and the intensity of engagement from the In-house Management attendees at HOW Design Live in Chicago. They were looking for answers to specific “how-to” questions that would help up their strategic game. Creatives have a seat at the corporate table because of their solid understanding of their organization’s business and strategic goals. They have a heightened level of intellectual curiosity. They leverage their full creative powers to create opportunities that guide their organization toward success.
What’s new and different for the In-house Management program for 2016?
AB: A big thing is more integration between all of the programs at HOW Design Live. With more than 80% of attendees in 2015 being in-house, all the program directors worked together to develop topics and speakers for design, brand, leadership, management and entrepreneurship to cross boundaries. This is probably one of the best years to get a Big Ticket ever, as there’s something for everyone in all of the programs.
How does the In-house Management program reflect where corporate design teams are right now — their challenges and opportunities?
ER: Look at what the general media is reporting, and you’ll see themes emerge that will be reflected in the 2016 In-house Management program. Media outlets like The Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, HOW and Print are spotlighting both people and companies that are using creative thinking as a tool for disruptive innovation. Airbnb is an excellent example of one organization generating immense buzz for changing how our culture views the hospitality industry. Airbnb’s lead designer, Tim Belonax, will talk about managing the design process at such an exciting indie brand.
Hear from brand leaders, in-house creative team managers and other bold thinkers at HOW Design Live. Register now — and take Andy Brenits’s advice to opt for the Big Ticket.