In-house Issues: Not A Pretty Picture

In 2005, Target initiated a monumental redesign that was completely invisible to any consumer walking into the store. It didn’t involve signage, advertising, corporate branding, web sites or packaging, yet it has probably had a greater impact on their consumers than any other design initiative they could have undertaken.

Based on a design thesis by then MFA student, Deborah Adler, Target completely redesigned the labels on their prescription bottles to be more clear and user friendly, minimizing the risk of improper administration of prescription medications.

The presidential election in 2000 brought with it a host of tallying nightmares resulting from poor ballot design. From butterfly ballots to hanging chads, it’s become very obvious that poor design completely unrelated to any aesthetic considerations could change the course of history.

In 2003, my design team at Gund was asked to put together a sell sheet in, of all programs, Microsoft Excel. Rather than disdainfully slapping a document together, our team looked at how to best organize the information to showcase the value of our product offerings. The thoughtful design that went into that simple spreadsheet won our company a $500,000 contract.

In-house designers often lament the lack of juicy aesthetically robust design projects that come their way. While there is more truth to this concern than anyone would like to admit, it would be a mistake to ignore all the value corporate creatives bring to their companies by providing excellent information design or worse yet, not take those projects seriously.

While information design projects often don’t make for very good design competition entries, they provide critical support to the business initiatives of the companies they’re created for. They also provide opportunities for in-house design departments to prove their strategic value to their internal clients and possibly bring in more visually focused assignments.

In the hugely information intensive business environment, designers are in a powerful position to organize and communicate that information in ways that will provide critical business advantages to the companies they work for. It may not be pretty but it is pretty important.