In-house Issues: Home on the Range

When presenting at this year’s AIGA Leadership Retreat, I painted a decidedly negative picture of corporate culture in an effort to drive home the challenges that in-house designers face that are distinct from the obstacles that our freelance, agency and design firm peers deal with. In making my point that in-house designers look for support specific to addressing those challenges in addition to the more general programming and content that AIGA provides to its members, I may have over generalized. Enough in-house designers approached me afterwards to make that point.

I’d like to restate my observations so that they are more in line with reality. The fact is that there are a wide range of corporate environments that in-house designers find themselves working in, spanning companies that view their teams as glorified service bureaus and a profit drain to more enlightened corporations that understand the value that their creatives bring not only with the deliverables they provide but with their strategic insights and expertise as well.

Like any bell curve, most teams probably fall somewhere in between these two extremes. One thing is for certain, though – no matter where your team falls on this continuum, the primary determining factor will always be how you and your team conduct yourselves in that challenging (or not so much) environment.

Congratulations to those in-house designers who have created and sustained a positive place of work. I hope you’ll consider sharing how you achieved those successes with your peers who need your support. To those of you struggling with a corporate mindset that presents difficult challenges to your attempts at crafting a healthy and rewarding work environment, look to organizations such as HOW, InSource and AIGA to help you in your efforts.

Change is the one constant in business, especially in today’s complex and competitive global marketplace, so no matter how successful your in-house creative group is, in order to best serve your company you need to continue to look for opportunities to evolve and improve your business model. But, hey, as a creative I’m guessing you wouldn’t want it any other way.