In-house Incites: Bye Bye Boston, Hello Bangalore

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Not that this will come as a revelation for anyone involved in design, but more and more, I’m struck by how easy it is to collaborate with talent from around the world. Increasingly I find myself working with illustrators and designers from across the globe. Technology has made distance so transparent that recently, it wasn’t until I got her invoice, that I realized an illustrator I was partnering with was from Thailand.

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This fact has many implications, both beneficial and cautionary, for in-house designers. Most obviously on the plus side, we have access to a larger pool of talent. Surprisingly, I’ve noticed, for whatever reason, that language and cultural barriers have diminished over the past few years. Another benefit of the improvement of collaborative technologies for those of us who have to work with co-workers in other parts of the country or planet is that it is now infinitely easier to collaborate with them on large-scale internal projects. If they’re in different time zones you can even become a 24/7 design shop (which can become a double-edged sword).

The danger of this new design order is for those in-house teams that have not positioned themselves as a strategic resource to their companies. If you’re only bringing the craft of design to the table, you risk being considered an outsourceable commodity. This lends an even greater urgency to the design paradigm shift being advocated in this blog and by most industry organizations that our profession adopt a decidedly more strategic, holistic mindset when partnering with our companies and clients. Creative innovative thinking that relies on cultural context (corporate and societal) and intimacy with a particular business cannot be outsourced. It’s your choice whether you’ll embrace and adopt design thinking as a critical addition to your repertoire of skills and aptitudes or continue to perpetuate the artisan approach to the practice of design. One approach will ensure your relevancy. The other? – Well bye-bye Boston and hello Bangalore.

2 thoughts on “In-house Incites: Bye Bye Boston, Hello Bangalore

  1. Richie!

    Hi. Could you clarify two things in this for me?

    1) What is a “strategic, holistic mindset when partnering with our companies and clients.” That seems a little vague, in terms of being actionable. I’m sure you have more concrete ideas, and I’m just new to this blog.

    2) Could you back this sentence up with evidence? “Creative innovative thinking that relies on cultural context (corporate and societal) and intimacy with a particular business cannot be outsourced.”

    Regardless of evidence, you realize you’re saying that it would take a paradigm shift for design to have “thinking that relies on cultural context (corporate and societal) and intimacy with a particular business,” which I think is kind of unfair to designers in general.

    But what do I know? I’m just an internet dude. 🙂

    1. Andy Epstein

      Hello Richie,

      By “strategic, holistic mindset when partnering with our companies and clients.” I mean that in-house designers shouldn’t just focus on creating the final design artifact (brochure, ad, website etc.) but rather, they should be involved in the process that defines what need/problem the design is addressing in the first place and figure out whom the communication is targeting and how to most effectively reach that audience. Too often designers are brought into the process at the end and asked to make the communication look nice which is a skill that can much more easily be outsourced than strategizing the content, style and focus of the communication.

      My evidence on point 2 is my experience working for 2 companies that manufactured their product overseas but designed that product in the US when it would have been cheaper to do both in Asia. The creation of the product, toys in one case and greeting cards in the other, required an understanding of the nuances of an American consumer’s mindset. Our teams at both companies lived in and had a lifelong history of participating in American culture. It was far easier for us to create the type of toys and cards that would resonate with an American audience than for an individual who hadn’t. It would be much more difficult, if not impossible, for a designer growing up and living in mainland China to understand how to engage an American than it would be for a designer who grew up in America.

      I disagree with your last comment. It precisely is our profession’s job to understand the culture we’re supposed to be designing for as well as the specific needs of the businesses we’re being engaged by to create our designs. If we don’t, then we risk designing work that does not engage and inform our target audience no matter how attractive the design we create is.

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