In-House Issues: Why Debrief + the “Instant Entrepreneurialism” Trend

My designer recently attended a conference, and afterwards I asked him to share his thoughts on the highlights and real themes that emerged. As we sat together in his office (and later over lunch), I found the conversation incredibly fascinating …

I started wondering if other in-house managers debrief with their team members who’ve attended national conferences or local industry programs. Finding out about their experiences and what they learned could build stronger bonds between team contributors.

Many of us may share insights learned after the completion of major assignments. But what about after a teammate has gained some new skill sharpening knowledge or experienced fresh insights from an industry expert. Can you debrief then? Absolutely!

Debriefing after anyone on your team learns something new is a great way to maximize your limited staff development dollars. Plus, it’s an opportunity to develop the presentation skills of the team member who is sharing the information. This helps them become more than just a contributor – a thought leader on the team.

The In-House Manager + Designer Connect Post Industry Event

A debrief can occur informally or formally, one-on-one in an office, in a large group gathered around a conference room table, or simply occur while noshing on chili cheese fries at a local burger joint. If you can’t afford to send your entire in-house team to an industry event, skill-building course or local program, send one or two and have them share their unique perspectives with anyone on the team who is interested in learning more. Be sure to give everyone the opportunity to share new insights. Below is a snippet from the conservation I had with my designer and his interesting take on design and instant entrepreneurialism:


In-House Guest Steve Dreyer on Design Trends + Entrepreneurialism

I recently caught up with a very talented former colleague and friend of mine who opened his own design firm 10 years ago. As we talked about our personal and professional lives, he mentioned something I’ve heard other designers say that I find to be very discouraging. He said, “I don’t love this [profession] anymore, it’s not what it used to be.”

Design seems to have become a devalued expertise, especially for some truly skilled, independent designers like my friend. It appears that as an overall business, for new clients, design is less about craftsmanship and aesthetics and more about the bottom line price. For some independent practitioners, our profession has gone from survival of the most talented to survival of the cheapest. My buddy said, “I feel like I spend more time lowering my estimate than I do designing the actual project. The expectations from today’s clients are to be quick and cheap. They have no regard for the creative process or production values.”

Even though I work in-house, I also freelance and it got me thinking … how did we get here? Are we powerless to changing these perceptions?

Good Design Cheap and Fast?

I believe some really good, independent designers working in the profession today like to believe they are above basic economics. I encountered one who spoke at a recent conference. The trouble begins when they give their great design skills away for free to cool startups solely for recognition. Then they expect their regular clients to pay exorbitant fees without providing them with any education about the value of design and why their fees for good design are so much higher. Because these clients aren’t well educated, they don’t hesitate to find someone else who’ll produce the project cheaper online.

At the same conference, I attended a session where Likeonomics author Rohit Bhargava spoke about the “Instant Entrepreneur” during his presentation about the 15 non-obvious trends changing marketing and creative in 2014. Bhargava said the instant entrepreneur is an individual who chooses to file their business’s legal documents on sites like Legal Zoom, take care of all their accounting needs online, and yes you guessed it, order their logos on crowdsourcing sites. Aren’t you outraged?! Well, what did you expect?

I’ve spoken with other independent designers about this exact same topic and their general response goes something like this: If clients don’t want to pay what I’m worth and don’t see the value in what I do, then I don’t want to work with them. My response to them usually is, “Great! I applaud you for standing up for your principles, however, somebody else will most likely do that logo for fifty bucks and nobody will care.”

The light at the end of the tunnel may be the continued growth and prominence of in-house design. I see a new generation of in-house leaders who are embracing their roles within the corporate structure, and learning ways to effectively preach the gospel of effective, good design without focusing on the lowest common denominator (or the lowest price). I also see corporations beginning to realize that it makes good business sense to bring talented creatives on staff, where they can learn infinitely more about what makes their business tick, therefore communicating more effectively to their stakeholders. Things may not be how they used to be for independent designers, but I do know that things are getting better and good design is being revered in-house.

About In-House Guest Steve Dreyer
Steve Dreyer earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design from Bowling Green State University. Dreyer has designed collateral for Pepsi, The Discovery Channel, Time-Life Video and Music, Freddie Mac, PBS and A&E Networks. He has worked for independent design firms and on several corporate in-house teams. Dreyer is one of the creative superheroes on Ed Roberts’ in-house team.


HOW Design LiveGet even more stimulating in-house conversation, hiring advice and more at the In-House Management Conference at HOW Design Live 2014.