Sarah Smith is one young woman with a great big idea to connect small corporate in-house teams (15 people or less) across the country through “With-IN,” a website she developed as the cornerstone of her thesis.
Why should we have lunch with Sarah? Well, for more than seven years Sarah has worked as an in-house graphic designer for Quality Distributors (QDI), one of the fastest growing master distributors of wireless products in the United States. Sarah knows what it’s like to watch a thriving in-house team dwindle down to just one person—her.
We should have lunch with Sarah Smith because she (like most of us) has had the weight of a brand fall squarely on her shoulders with no one to turn to for feedback or support. Furthermore, Sarah is simultaneously working fulltime and enrolled at the Academy of Art University diligently pursuing her Masters. Most importantly Sarah has something very interesting to talk about with us.
So grab your lunch, sit back, relax for a few minutes and have lunch with Sarah Smith, an in-house graphic designer, graduate student and creator of With-IN.
What’s for lunch?
Most of the time, I bring a turkey sandwich on wheat with American cheese, Dijon, tomato, lettuce, and avocado. It’s amazing!
Sounds tasty! You choose to work in-house, why?
I like in-house because I like the sense of stability, as opposed to freelance, which can be a little more sporadic. It’s really nice being part of a team and growing with a company.
What’s your earliest creative memory?
Elementary school, I made a dinosaur out of red clay and then glazed it green. I think my mom still has it!?!
Who are your design heroes; have they influenced your design aesthetic or work?
I really like the design studio at Geigy. They worked with designers like Fred Toller and Roland Aeschlimann. I’m influenced by clean, simple and straightforward design that makes an impact through color and image.
What is design; how relevant is it in-house?
Design is the process of creating something functional and purposeful. Corporations are realizing the importance of their in-house design teams. They no longer ask them, “What can you make?” but rather “How can this be better?”
I think the design world has a great opportunity to bring people together through experiences that leave lasting impressions. In-house designers can make a huge difference in the corporate world, using design to make a positive impact.
How did working in-house influence the development of “With-IN,” the centerpiece of your thesis?
Well, With-IN wouldn’t exist if I had not chosen to work in-house. When I first started working at QDI there were four designers; now it’s just me. I missed having people around to bounce ideas off of and receive feedback and inspiration. With-IN fills that gap. It is exactly the kind of community I was searching for but couldn’t find. I hope other in-house designers (like me) will benefit from With-IN too.
Tell me more; was your thesis a tough sell to your grad school advisors? How did you come up with the name “With-in”?
My advisors saw the potential in my idea. Some of them also had in-house experience. They were able to provide valuable feedback through a different point of view. They opened my eyes to issues that I hadn’t considered before.
The original name was “IN” which suggested that members would be placed “in a box.” I wanted the name to reflect the concept of becoming part of a connected, creative and innovative community. The next semester I suggested to Professor Jeremy Stout that the name change to “With-IN.”
What are the greatest challenges you’re currently facing with your thesis?
I’ve never been a spokesperson before, so it’s definitely been a challenge to get out there and meet new people and get them to sign up on With-IN. The people that I have met have been so supportive like Randy Johnson, a solo in-house designer. He’s been really positive about the concept of the With-IN community. And so have you! I’m looking forward to seeing how the community evolves.
What do you need from the in-house community to help make your thesis a success? What is our call to action?
Go sign up and start using the forums! If you’re looking for feedback, critique, inspiration, or just want to talk with other in-house designers, it only takes a few minutes to create an account and post to the site. Tell your in-house designer friends, too. I’m also looking for people who are interested in guest writing or doing interviews for the site.
If you could grab a bite with anyone in our industry (alive or dead), who would it be and why?
I would love to grab a bite with Andy Epstein to get his feedback on With-IN. He has been a huge inspiration to me and I’d love to meet him.