In-house Incites: A Deafening Silence

All my best mentors, my heroes (design and otherwise) and my mom and dad impressed upon me the need to give back to my community. I’ve always taken this to heart and have attempted to do that where I live, where I work and within the design community.

In keeping with my commitment to support in-house designers, I often am compelled to invite my colleagues in the in-house community to do the same. This is especially true now that AIGA has launched an ambitious in-house program and has extended the opportunity to me to curate the in-house affinity sessions that are a part of the upcoming AIGA Design Conference being held in Phoenix this fall.

At the risk of being labeled a finger-wagging Pollyanna, I have to say that I’m underwhelmed at the willingness of many of the in-house design community’s best and brightest to respond to requests to support their peers. I completely understand that many of these potential thought leaders have extremely full professional and personal lives (that’s how they achieved their success) and may have commitments regarding serious matters that understandably must be their priority. But the consistency that I’ve experienced either no response at all or a quick brush-off to my invitations to support our profession underscores a larger lack of commitment on the part of potential community leaders. Without this group’s insights, perspectives and general leadership we all lose out on powerful opportunities to grow and flourish in our professional and personal lives.

If you’re operating at a high level in your organization, are articulate and possess strong leadership skills, I hope you’ll consider giving back to our community. If you know of potential leaders who have been standing on the sidelines, I hope you’ll send them this post. Great things can happen when great people take the stage.

13 thoughts on “In-house Incites: A Deafening Silence

  1. Anonymous

    Just a thought… but a lot of in-house people are jaded by the years of neglect AIGA has visited on in-house designers. Personally, being in-house has been a stigma and hinderance in trying to find work at design “agencies” or “firms.”

    Have overheard people actually saying, “He/she’s an in house designer. Can you imagine?”

    This may be part of your problem. And part of the snobbery of the AIGA coming back to bite them in the booty.

    Or maybe I’ve just been unfortunate and had some random bad experiences with out-house designers.

    1. Andy Epstein

      Five years ago I would have been inclined to agree with you – that was one of the reasons I was compelled to establish InSource with Glenn Arnowitz. There has been a marked shift, though, both at the national and the chapter levels at AIGA and with that shift, a real opportunity for our community to establish itself as a powerful subset within the greater design community. My concern is in finding new articulate and committed leaders to take advantage of the door that’s been opened.

    2. matt

      Unfortunately I have to agree with ‘Anonymous’ on this.

      Plus, there is very little being done in the UK to change the view of being in-house. Personally I choose to be in-house as i find it a harder challenge, though maybe that is through some sort of perverse tendency to always fight the corner of the ‘underdog’?

  2. Liendani Creative

    I agree with anonymous. I have been to one AIGA event ever. I did not feel included or invited.

    HOW, on the other hand was and is a different thing.

    That said, I don’t have a degree in the arts, but rather in journalism which I’m thankful for every single day.

    I can’t say I feel too inclined to give back to a group that has made me feel like less than: no degree, in-house, etc.

    Andy, I have really enjoyed reading your in-house blog and have just purchased the book. But you have to realize that it’s not just laziness or, worse, apathy on the part of the design community.

    It will take some convincing to get me or anyone who has had a bad experience with AIGA to change their mind, then take action and participate when my time and skills are appreciated and welcomed elsewhere.

    Cheers to you for trying.

  3. Joe

    I appreciate your posts, Andy. Thanks for kicking us in the rears to think outside of our own little world.

    Of course AIGA is not the only outlet to help others in the community with design skills or otherwise. I actually find “non-design” volunteering more invigorating outside the workplace. It helps me develop other skill sets that in the long run help out in my career, too. Designing a logo and brochure for a non-profit is rewarding and a great thing to do, but it doesn’t push me outside my comfort zone much. Leading teens in inner-city community service projects does. Plus usually these “non-design” volunteering leads to design work for the cause when they find out what you do for a living (and they don’t care you’re in-house).

    Good luck to all as you tear down walls in your cubicles, your local design chapters, and your community. Pay it forward.

  4. Jason Graham

    I am an in-house designer, and I have to admit I don’t feel terribly welcome at AIGA in my area and it is extremely clicky. I do feel there is a certain level of snobbery with that group. I haven’t been in years so maybe it’s changed. I recently made an effort to overlook those past experiences because I did remember from when I was a student that they had some very good speakers so I thought it might be worth it just to attend for that if nothing else. So I emailed the contact for the local chapter and never got a response back. Still thinking about joining, but definitely not in a hurry about spending money with an organization that doesn’t appear to care that I’m interested in what they have to offer.

    On the other hand, I do really like HOW. I feel like they’ve done a good job of trying to make in-house designers feel a little more included in the design community. Although I really like attending the regular HOW conference over the In-HOWse version, I applaud the effort they’ve made to actually make an entire conference specifically for the in-house designers.

    Professionally for myself, I would prefer working in a design firm, so that’s probably why I like the regular HOW. At my current job as an innie, I get treated great as an employee, but not so good as a design professional. It’s a tradeoff, I get lots of time off and I can do my job with one hand tied behind my back and don’t have to work 80 hours a week. The downside is I don’t get to function at a high level providing strategic insight in the organization, don’t get challenged(in the right way) and don’t get to work on high visibility projects that make for a great portfolio. The hardest challenges in my job are generally about trying to function as a designer/creative person in an environment that doesn’t support or respect what you do. The positive side of it is that I at least have the time to satisfy my creative urges outside of work, and I can do freelance w/o a conflict of interests so they don’t totally control how much I can make in a given year. Going to the HOW conference definitely gives me that boost of inspiration to keep me going. Great job HOW!

  5. Jim

    In the past I have found AIGA to be a lot like high school. You have the typical in crowd, cliques and the people trying to fit in. As an In-house designer I always felt like the one trying to fit in. I became a little tired of trying to fit in and found other creative outlets that gave me the support that I expected from AIGA. That being said, in-house designers seem to be growing in numbers and a lot of companies are recognizing the value of an in-house creative team. It seems that AIGA has also started to recognize the in-house community and is making effort to support it. If the in-house community does not take advantage of this opportunity they are only hurting themselves.

  6. Andrea

    I second Terri…what call for help has been brushed off?

    As for AIGA, my local chapter is WONDERFUL, but that is probably because most everyone in it is an in-house designer!

    1. Andy Epstein

      My apologies for any ambiguity in my post. There have been many positive responses to the request for volunteers for the AIGA INitiative located in the right-hand column of the site. My call to action was/is directed towards many of the higher-profile in-house design managers and directors who have declined opportunities to become more involved in our community.

  7. Unemployed

    I always look towards this blog with interest, having been inhouse myself for many years. Unfortunately, this blog (and AIGA’s efforts) started at the time when I was leaving the field… so it felt a little like “too little, too late”. I have been an AIGA member for 12 years, but can’t always justify the high cost of membership — especially when my employer refuses to cover professional development. My 12-year career included two official layoffs, one phaseout and one resignation to avoid layoff. That’s enough strife to challenge any designer’s resolve. My good work has too often been rewarded with pink slips because my non-design-valuing employer sees creative as the first to cut when times get tough. My last manager actually confessed to me that management wanted to cut the position (which had been intact for over a decade) and instead wanted to pursue getting all creative done for free/pro bono by generous and unsuspecting agencies. And so now, not only have I been unemployed for two years, but I am completely jaded over the state of affairs in our field — so much so that I have decided to leave the graphic design field. Despite my unfortunate career path, I do applaud you and others for reaching out to the masses and trying to make a genuine difference.