In-house Issues: Step It Up

Over and over again, I hear from in-house designers how isolated they feel, how little support they get from existing industry organizations and how few publications provide them with advice and support. In 2000 they may have had a point. I know that was my experience and was what prompted me to join with Glenn Arnowitz and create InSource. But it’s 2011 and the in-house landscape has changed quite a bit since then.


InSource, HOW and AIGA now offer many opportunities for dialogue and access to information about the unique issues relevant to practicing design in a corporation. AIGA will be featuring, now for the second time, an in-house affinity sessions track at its national design conference. HOW made the bold move from hosting an in-house sessions track to a full conference devoted to innies 5 years ago. InSource routinely sponsors regional roundtables across the country.

Industry publications have been equally committed to supporting the in-house community. Very early on, Gordon Kaye at Graphic Design USA and Bryn Mooth and Megan Lane at HOW began including articles and columns on in-house design in their publications. Both periodicals also undertook the complicated initiative of sponsoring in-house design competitions.

The past 10 years have also seen books devoted solely to the topic of in-house being penned and printed by a variety of publishers. Online in-house social networks, eZines and blogs have sprung up on the web and major industry vendors have stepped up to underwrite in-house focused programming and initiatives including IP, TCG and Finch to name a few.

The ranks of in-house thought leaders have grown to include insightful committed individuals like Emily Cohen, Sam Harrison, Ilise Benun, Andy Brenits, Glenn Arnowitz, Jeni Herberger and Moira Cullen. In the business sphere, the design thinking moniker has expanded the opportunities for in-house designers to establish themselves as strategic partners in the organizations where they work.

Ironically, the group that has been the slowest to join this in-house explosion is the community of in-house designers. The numbers don’t lie. By various accounts, in-house designers make up at least 60% of all self-designated graphic designers practicing in the US today, yet the strength of this community’s voice is nowhere near at a volume that would reflect that percentage.

Many of our colleagues have stepped up to support us with the unique challenges we face being creatives in what is often a decidedly non-creative environment. It’s now our responsibility to reciprocate by joining in in greater numbers and with comparable passion.