Creating Clout Within Your In-House Design Department

More than six out of 10 in-house designers surveyed for The Creative Team of the Future program said they expect to have more influence on their company’s business decisions in the next three to five years. The not-so-good news: More than four out of 10 respondents said “gaining respect from internal clients” poses the greatest challenge for them in the near future.

While a designer’s work is no longer considered “window dressing,” challenges for creative teams today can range from convincing senior management to try something that deviates from the prevailing style to educating counterparts on how long it takes to design a website. Following are some tactics to help raise your visibility and gain clout at your organization. (Want more information on how to be the best in-house manager? Attend The In-House Survival Guide at the In-House Managers Conference at HOW Design Live.)

in-house design illustration

Speak Their Language

Every profession has its own lexicon, but when you’re conversing with those outside of the creative department, avoid jargon. You’re unlikely to win your case for using a bold, new color in a marketing e-mail if you talk about CMYK. Instead, show how design isn’t simply an aesthetic tool but also a strategic one. Speak in terms of business and objectives (not typography choices), and present plans that show ROI.

Join hundreds of fellow in-house design professionals at the In-HOWse Managers Conference, part of HOW Design Live in San Francisco, June 22–24. Learn how to develop your creative leadership skills and network with your in-house peers at this industry-leading event. IHDC logo

Act the Part

If you want design to be treated as a core business competency, you must convey that idea through your actions; this requires excellent interpersonal abilities. By demonstrating strong leadership, communication and problem-solving skills, you’ll be more likely to earn respect from your counterparts in marketing and upper management.

Educate and Enlighten

Creative clout only comes with knowledge (and appreciation) of the creative process. As a result, it’s important to inform others of your team’s role as it relates to the big picture. For instance, many non-creatives simply don’t appreciate the style guidelines with which you must comply or are unaware of the cost of original photography. To shed light on what you do, consider giving presentations that compare your work to the competition. Sharing best practices and discussing current industry standards with colleagues also demonstrates your commitment to keeping on the cutting edge.

Brag a Little

Submit your team’s work to design competitions, and you’ll build your group’s credibility at your company. Receiving an award from an outside source demonstrates the high quality of your efforts in comparison to your peers at other firms. You’re also likely to garner more respect from executives when you’re able to attach “award-winning” to a piece your group designed.

In addition to entering (and winning) design competitions, you’ll gain recognition by doing some internal PR. “We create monthly highlights that show our accomplishments at a high level and include customer feedback for a job well done,” said one in-house designer surveyed.

Ultimately, creating clout at your firm is similar to a branding campaign: You want to educate yourself about the audience, speak the same language and offer a unified message from a variety of angles. By following the advice above, your “product” launch is bound to be more successful.

An opportunity to show off your in-house design work

HOW InHOWse Design Awards

Early-Bird Deadline: May 1, 2013

Who wouldn’t want national exposure for their work-especially when it also means loads of attention within your own company? In-house designers, that’s exactly what you’ll get from the 2013 HOW InHOWse Design Awards.

Exclusively for in-house design work, this competition gives you a chance to strut your stuff and show off the work you do for the products you love. All winning work will be featured in HOW magazine, meaning you can tell those internal clients that they’re now dealing with an award-winning-and published-designer.

More resources for in-house designers

Check out “The Corporate Creative:” Tips and Tactics for Thriving as an In-House Designer

8 Critical Ingredients for a Successful Design Career—on-demand design tutorial taught by Doug Bartow