by Jeni Herberger
The function of in-house design departments within larger organizations has long been a heated topic among designers that work both within them and outside of them. Honestly, I don’t get it. The purpose of any design department (whether in or out) is to create compelling visual communications and brand initiatives that further the vision of a company. So, what’s the problem? I’ll list just a few for you:
- Design departments don’t function like their counterparts in outside firms (organizationally or procedurally).
- Internal design teams and outside agencies often don’t work as partners towards the greater good.
- Team members can act like victims, not experts in their field.
- Design departments ask for permission rather than proving their worth.
- Clients of in-house groups are not courted and coaxed (hell, much of the time they aren’t treated like or expected to act like clients).
- Design departments usually do the work for free, not instituting chargeback systems.
Have I got you fired up yet? Good. It’s time to change the course of things for in-house design departments. Many of us in the industry feel we are on the forefront of an evolution in the structure and function of the agency model. With the expanded role of visual communications in reaching a greater demographic of consumers, agencies are struggling to be everything to everyone; brand creator, web architect, advertising guru, product design promoter, etc. Seemingly, this makes the role of the internal design team intrinsic to the success of its organization. Its time for in-house teams to take the bull by the horns and make words like ‘respect’ and ‘value’ the norm not the exception.
There is no doubt in-house departments should consist of high-level designers, producers and directors that are promoted as experts on the brand. Now more than ever in-house designers have an amazing opportunity to be partners in establishing and implementing an organization’s vision and brand. As companies navigate through these turbulent times, they will continue to look for ways to cut costs and creative ways to increase revenue when consumers and businesses alike are less likely to spend money. What a tremendous opportunity for in-house groups to ask for a seat at the table and show the value they add.
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