Mini Case Studies: 3 Projects from Design Teams in the B2B Industry

The following mini case studies of projects from past HOW In-House Design Awards winners also appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of HOW magazine. Want to see your team’s work published in the Winter 2017 issue of HOW? Enter before the deadline—July 5, 2017!

Written by Sarah Whitman and Amanda Aszman

If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It: A Campaign by Norfolk Southern

When the team at Norfolk Southern wanted to produce corporate messaging videos to air on the company-wide digital network—but needed the videos to work in locations that didn’t allow audio—they nixed the standard closed captioning and went silent.

Silent film, that is. Norfolk Southern is a leading transportation provider; thus, a series centered on an old-fashioned, train-film villain was a natural fit. Running with that concept, the creative team turned a corporate safety and security message into pure delight, reminding employees in an engaging way to keep their ID badges visible.

All of the actors are employees, so shooting the set of videos had to happen in a single day to reduce everyone’s time away from job duties. “The amount of collaboration it took from beginning to end was incredible,” says creative services specialist Audra Byrn.

Lack of budget brought out the team’s scrappy side: They crafted props with supplies at hand—duct tape, rope, spray paint. “You do what you gotta do to get the job done,” Byrn says. For the campaign’s poster and folded handouts, the creatives took a slightly more modern approach. “We wanted a more direct message with ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ to encourage employees to show us their badges,” says Laura Walker, manager of creative services.

Throughout the seven months it took to complete the project, the team learned some useful tidbits worth sharing. “If you’re excited about your project and can get everyone else to buy into it, you’ve got it made,” Byrn says. It also helps, she notes, when your project addresses a company-wide hot topic—security and safety, in their case. “If your project isn’t already associated with a hot topic, try to align the message as such to help push it through,” Byrn says. “Then it’s a win-win.”

2016 HOW In-house Design Awards judge Andy Brenits was particularly impressed by their ingenious solution. “These internal campaigns are no less important or aligned strategically than anything produced for external audiences,” he says. “The Norfolk Southern team created an engaging campaign that solves a real business communications challenge.”

With another success under the team’s belt, Byrn can’t help but dote: “I work with an amazing group of people who love what they do … and it shows.”

Company/Organization Norfolk Southern, Norfolk, VA; | Creative Team Laura Walker, Audra Byrn, David Ray, Andrew Gressard, Lance Russell (Barefoot Films), Neil Grochmal, Josh Evans, Veronica Dana

Peavey Amplifies Business Intelligence: A Red Hat Customer Success Story

When audio equipment manufacturer Peavey Electronics needed to bolster its analytics and reporting to give its sales representatives and distributors quicker, easier access to information in the field, it turned to Red Hat software to find a solution. So impressed was Peavey by the time-savings and business improvement, the company agreed to star in a customer success story that features both Peavey and Red Hat, plus NEC, the consultant that connected them.

The shared story is captured in a video revolving around Peavey’s unique journey from the company’s inception to its use of Red Hat’s technology to solve the company’s business problems. “We built on-screen graphics that focused on connecting the live-action visuals and story to Peavey’s products and business challenges,” says Red Hat director Brett Abramsky. “Our approach resulted in a video that integrated a lesson on the origins of rock ‘n’ roll, a discussion about innovation and an example of how a company outside of the tech industry improved their analytics and reporting with an implementation of Red Hat’s solutions.”

The challenges lay in condensing the Peavey history into an intro for the piece and in telling a story about software, which is intangible and can be impersonal. “The more we can pull in the actual people who use it, and show them using it and how that affects their businesses, the more we conquer that challenge,” says motion graphics designer Laura Walters. “In this case, we were able to film the exchanges between Chuck (the field sales rep) and the owner of one of the stores he visits, so we actually got to film them interacting with the software and really show the real-world functionality.”

Although more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Red Hat technology, not many people have heard about the company, Abramsky says. So another advantage of telling the Peavey story was that people are familiar with what they do as a business-to-consumer company, and it’s easier for people to relate to the manufacturing process and visuals of guitars. Judge Andy Brenits agrees it was a winning combo: “[This video] does a great job of telling the story using great shots, graphics and editing. It’s a visually engaging piece [that] informs the viewer about the history of Peavey, while also demonstrating the solutions delivered by Red Hat.”

Company/Organization Red Hat, Raleigh, NC; | Creative Team Brett Abramsky, Laura Walters, Mike Esser, Jason Arthurs, Andrew P. Johnson, Andrew Manson, Rachel Rooney, Brandalyn Powell

Q2 Architecture Box: A Customized Direct Mail Campaign

b2b design


“How do we take something so technical and make it easy to understand?” This challenge was at the core of Q2’s Architecture Box project, the biggest and most customized direct mail campaign of the year for the virtual banking solutions company.

Tasked by the sales team with creating a door-opening piece that communicates the value of Q2’s software architecture, the creative services team decided to use a recognizable concept—building construction. From the skyscraper look and feel of the custom wooden box to the “blueprint” representation of the software, the architecture metaphor unifies the creative throughout—and helps deliver a complex, technical message in a way that resonates with C-level executives at top-tier community and regional financial institutions.

The success of the project hinged on the collaborative efforts of the entire in-house creative team: “From concept to design to production, peer collaboration and problem-solving was an integral part of this entire piece,” says creative services manager Sarah Handlos. The team had five months to complete the project, giving them adequate time to identify premium solutions and source vendors. The biggest challenge was finding a wooden box vendor that could execute the design to Q2’s expectations.

The time and attention given to the project paid off. The sales team says it was a great way to illustrate the company’s complex architecture, and it opened the door for discussions with key personnel at the financial institutions. It was also a hit with HOW’s judges: “A marketing piece as good as any outside agency or design firm would have dreamed up, the Q2 Architecture Box helps deliver a technical message in an easy-to-understand way that surely resonates with the C-suite executives it is targeted for,” says judge Andy Brenits. “From the blueprint-like design metaphor to the keepsake-worthy wooden box, the materials present Q2’s strategic architecture platform in a creative and attractive package that certainly garners a call to the sales team.”

Handlos says her favorite aspect was the ability to develop something creative and visually appealing for an industry that typically is underserved in those areas.

Company/Organization Q2 Software Inc., Austin, TX; | Creative Team Katie Glantz, Jack McBee, Janell Hendricks, Sarah Handlos

Hear from another past winner of the HOW In-House Design Awards:

kevin johnson, art director, Cleveland Cavaliers, winner of HOW In-House Design Awards“Winning has been a great way to get recognition from within the organization. It’s furthered our ability to attend design conferences and training, and has also strengthened our voice as a design team.”

Kevin Johnson, art director, Cleveland Cavaliers


When your team is recognized in the HOW In-House Design Awards, today’s top talent sees your team’s award-winning work, and you’ll find networking opportunities galore at HOW Design Live 2018 with the free Big Ticket registration that goes to the Best of Show winner.

Click here to submit your team’s work by July 5, 2017!