In-House DesignCast: From Order-Taker to Business Partner

from order-taker to business partner designcast

Bob Calvano is the director of Merck’s Global Creative Studios, a full-service in-house agency, and provides creative leadership and business solutions on a global scale. He has been providing thought leadership and design solutions for more than 20 years. With a mind that never stops thinking about the creative process, he is always open to exploring new mediums and possibilities. Here he answers some questions related to his upcoming DesignCast, From Order-taker to Business Partner, and also provides some info about his background and interests. You can pre-register now to attend his live presentation on February 23rd or to get it on-demand.

Can you tell us a little more about your DesignCast topic? What personal or professional experiences led you to this topic?
I’m currently in the process of transforming a large in-house creative team (70 people, give or take a few depending on the day) from departments that were operating well to a team that will be positioned as a strategic business partner.

Can you give designers some background on this topic as it related to your upcoming presentation?
Many in-house design teams can often be looked at as “transactional creatives”—you know, someone from marketing comes into the department and says “I need a poster by Wednesday, here’s some copy and a few old pictures from last year’s poster, maybe you can find new pictures. Can you get it done?” No one likes to work in this type of environment and there are ways to change the behavior of our colleagues, but the team needs to be ready to make a big move. A lot of the juicy, high-profile projects go out to agencies because folks think that the agencies have better talent, but this is not always the case. In many cases, the in-house team is the best agency for the project, but a huge shift needs to take place in order for this to happen. I’m going to talk about the things that need to change within the creative team to go from order taker to strategic creative team.

What’s keeping you busy these days?
Well, I spread myself a little too thin at times. I’m currently the director of Merck’s Global Creative Studios, and we have undergone more change in the past year than in the last decade. It takes a lot to initiate that type of change and then execute it at a large corporation like Merck. Aside from that, I play drums in a band, play ice hockey, and have two kids, two dogs and, most importantly, a beautiful wife who I help as much as I can as she launches her new business.

What was your first job in the design field?
I worked for Panasonic as a graphic artist. It was way back when wax machines that had nothing to do with hair removal were used on a daily basis.

What’s the strangest thing that has happened to you during your design career?
It’s more unique than strange. When I worked for Oxygen TV, we did a stunt in Times Square for a show called “Mr. Romance,” and we had Fabio ride in to the middle of Times Square on a white horse. Only in New York. 🙂

What is your favorite and why:

  • Website: I don’t think I have a favorite website anymore. The lines are getting very blurry. Take Twitter, for example: Is that a website?
  • Mobile App: I absolutely love The Weather Channel app for the iPad. The darn thing is accurate and I can see what the weather will be like anywhere in a moment’s notice. It projects the weather hourly for you, and you can see the clouds moving (I love the radar feature). There are maps, news, videos. It’s very cool.
  • Book: I have two current favorites: John Maeda’s “Redesigning Leadership.” And Andy Epstein’s “The Corporate Creative.”

Do you have a pet project—a side business or a charity to which you donate time or services?
My wife and I donate our time and money to Liquid Church—a church dedicated to providing clean drinking water to the world’s poorest wells throughout developing countries. Teams have served people in Africa, Haiti and El Salvador.

As you scan the technology landscape, what are you seeing that really excites or intrigues you?
Does saying anything that Apple does count? I’m serious. I love the iPad2, the iPhone 4S, my MacBook Pro and the new Lion OS … should I go on? My iPod touch, time machine, the cloud, mobile me. … I’m a big fan and user of many, many Apple products.

Tune into Calvano’s DesignCast, From Order-Taker to Strategic Partner, Thursday, February 23rd at 3 p.m. EST, to learn how to position your in-house team as a strategic partner and to change the mindset within your organization.