A Call To Action: Participate or Perish

I’ve been told by reliable sources that in-house designers make up over half of the design community, but you’d hardly know it when you look at the membership numbers of, and participation in, our premier design organizations. Chances are, if you’re reading this post, that you are one of the more involved in-house designers, so I’m addressing this post to you.

There are many practices, roles and programming which current design groups could adopt to help support the practice of in-house design. Many haven’t to date, not because of some malicious or intentional motive, but because the people who are volunteering their time and contributing their money have a different set of interests and agenda. If the in-house community actively participates in these groups, we will be in a position to expand these organizations’ in-house outreach and support for our community.

So your next steps are simple – join your local AIGA chapter and actively participate and lobby for in-house programming and support. Go to HOW conferences and let the staff know you’d like to see more in-house focused events and content. Join in on discussion groups on this blog and on the new free InSource site.

That’s it – What are you waiting for?

1. Join AIGA

2. Go to HOW or In-HOWse conference

3. Go to GAIN conference

4. Contribute to In-HOWse and InSource blogs

10 thoughts on “A Call To Action: Participate or Perish

  1. Andy Epstein


    Yes, I would. Any group of designers who are working in a company whose primary product or service is not design would be considered in-house. Or, to put it another way, if you’re not working in a design firm or ad agency, and are not a design freelancer then, chances are, you’re an in-house designer.

    The real difference between an in-house designer and a designer working on their own or in a firm or agency is that the working environment is generally different and requires different or additional skills and behaviors that we’re addressing in this blog.

    Hope this helps.


  2. Terry Biddle

    Hey Andy,

    Met you at the last In-HOWse conference here in DC. I read your blog regularly…thanks!

    I’m an AIGA member that could probably stand to be more active, but I think an important barrier a lot of us in-house designers feel is the complete disconnect with the “events sponsored by AIGA” and our “daily work lives.”

    The reality is, most of what we do won’t win awards, but it is very, very necessary (and important) design work.

    When you go to a lot of these events, it feels like big egos showing all their “awesome” portfolios of work that you know you’ll never get to do in-house.

    I know there’s a need to get the butts in the seats, but it does feel sometimes like the actual working community isn’t part of “the club.”

  3. Andy Epstein

    Hey Terry,

    I totally get where you’re coming from having felt the same way in the past. I can say that the staff at AIGA is aware of this and is actively working to better address the needs of the in-house community. Within the past 2 years they’ve established a presence on the national web site for in-house content, created the first-ever in-house session track at the Make/Think conference in Memphis last year and are looking to enhance the presence and influence of in-house members at the local level in ways which will be formally announced late May or early June.

    This last point will only happen with increased participation by committed members like you. You may want to consider volunteering to create and put on an in-house event by working with the DC chapter’s programming board member. I know that, more than some other chapters, DC already has an active in-house membership.

    Or you could run for chapter president. 🙂

    Seriously, though, by early spring there will be opportunities for greater participation in AIGA for in-house designers.

  4. Lauri Shillings

    Thanks for the reply.
    It’s hard to classify what the job duties of my group are- we are jacks of all trades, print, web, logo, photography, layout- you name it, we can ‘prolly do it.

    I try to lead my group in creative exercises so they can feel like they are growing as designers- not just as ad creators. It’s not always easy to squeeze in the time.

    In regards to Terry’s comment – As a small community newspaper, our employer usually doesn’t have the cash to fund a trip to conferences or for us to join professional groups, but will occasionally sponsor entries to contests. As a group, we do well in our state press association’s annual advertising competition. I understand where you are coming from when you feel like the working community isn’t ‘part of the club’. It’s hard to get away from the 9-5.

    1. Andy Epstein


      Your team’s range of responsibilities seem to be very similar to those of many other in-house groups. It certainly busts the myth that in-house designers don’t get as many creative opportunities as designers in firms and agencies who can get pigeon-holed in a particular area of expertise. You should also be proud of the fact that you’re looking for ways to motivate your designers – which can be a real challenge as an in-house group.

      I hope I don’t step on any toes here, but you may want to consider asking your manager for funds to send at least one designer to a particular conference and then have that designer report back to the group. You may also want to consider asking for dollars for an AIGA membership for one of your team. You may even find it worthwhile to use personal funds to join an organization or attend a conference or smaller event. I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll get a good return on your investment.

  5. Kelli Annison

    Hey guys!

    I just started reading In-Howse, but I will try to become more active. I’m new to the design community in general. I will graduate in May but I already have started at my job as an in house designer for a local company.

    I wanted to say thanks for the advice and occasional laugh. I find the information and links on this site extremely useful. I’m looking in to joining AIGA but I’m not sure which chapter to join, I live in Louisiana, but I’m five hours from New Orleans and four hours from Dallas. Would it be better for me to join the Dallas chapter since I’m closer? Does it matter where I live?

  6. Scott Weisgerber

    Great advise, if only in-house designers would read it. I’m very active in my local AIGA chapter (orange county). We are constantly trying to engage our in-house design population but very few want any part of AIGA or any group for that matter.

    We’ve thought of contests and shows special to in-house teams, but if no one shows…

    What we run into is in-house people seem to think the job is 8-5. after that they want to go home and not think about design, which to them is ‘work’. I’ve gone so far as to offer to pay for my staff to join, but none of them see the value.

    I’d love to hear what AIGA has up there sleeve and I’ll be sure to ask Ric and his staff about it at the upcoming AIGA Leadership retreat and also with Bryn at the In-HOW-se Show.

  7. Chad

    Thanks for this wonderful ‘push.’ Also thanks for this site, AIGA’s in-house spotlights, and Mr. Epstein’s book “The Corporate Creative.” I’ve read half this morning and it’s bustin’ full of insights.

    I know that as designers, if we unite, we’d take over the world. As in-house designers, if we unite, we’d demonstrate the value of good design and help our respective companies outshine the competition. Then take over the world.

    Also, it’s great to hear In-Source is headed back to the free membership model. (Justifying membership dues can be a huge undertaking, right?)