Certified Manager Training for In-House Designers


“Now is the time to take this in-house revolution and your career to another level—one that is less tactical and more strategic. HOWU has designed a phenomenal new series of training courses for in-house team contributors—from the manager to the designer—that will build both strategic thinking and management skills.” – Ed Roberts

In-house designers play a significant role in shaping design trends and making a global impact on the design world. At HOW, we can’t thank in-house designers enough for spurring the growth of the graphic design industry and magnificently showcasing how creative teams can work together to create spellbinding work. Each year, we recognize in-house designers with the In-House Design Awards. The awards recognize the best creative work produced by designers doing in-house work for corporations, associations and organizations.

(We’re currently accepting submissions for the In-House Design Awards — but the deadline is July 10th! If you’re an in-house designer, submit your work today!)

Not only do we appreciate the work coming from in-house design teams, we also want to help in-house designers advance in their careers. Their day-to-day work requires not only design savvy, but also business and management skills — topics often neglected in design school curriculum.

As designers climb the career ladder and grow into leadership positions, many realize there’s a gap in their education. HOW Design University teamed up with InSource, a platform where designers and experts can share ideas and knowledge among the rising leaders of in-house creative teams, to fill in that education gap. Their solution was to create a certificate program that provides the essential business and communication skills managers need to run their creative teams successfully.

Ed Roberts—writer, speaker and award-winning creative director—shaped the certification program. His involvement began with the realization that career-climbing in-house designers eventually face this daunting situation:

“In the face of adversity, we’ve (in-house designers) stayed the course, honing and deploying our creative talents in an effort to position our employers to exceed their goals. And many of us have been rewarded with a seat at the corporate table. But you may be thinking, ‘Now what?'” – Ed Roberts

After surveying professional in-house designers, HOW Design University and InSource identified the top critical skills managers need to lead a productive creative team. With this knowledge, they curated courses that cover the vital skills into a unique, educational and professional program to provide in-house designers with proper certified manager training. See the enriching objectives below:

The In-House Certification program includes the following courses:

  • Keys to Effective Communication
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Strategic Thinking and Planning
  • Presenting Ideas to Clients
  • Key Steps to Client Relationships
  • Stress & Time Management

As a sample of the training available from the certification, we’ve provided a course excerpt from the certification program, “Presenting Design Ideas and Concepts,” below:

Presenting Design Ideas and Concepts Course Excerpt

Approaches to Presenting Design Concepts:

Marilyn Manson once said, “I think everybody’s got a presentation. Everybody looks a certain way because they want to convey a certain image. You look a certain way because you want people to listen to you in a certain way.”

It took me some time to realize this, but there is an art to presenting. In any successful organization, solid presentations are key for both winning business and satisfying clients. A creative or businessperson has to factor in many variables when preparing a meeting.

Is the presentation going to be made in person or remotely? Will you present in person or remotely?

These two choices go hand in hand and directly affect one another. With today’s technology, meetings can be held across the globe, although I am a large proponent of meeting in person when you can. I believe that anytime a face-to-face meeting is possible, it is advantageous because body language, facial expressions, and just a human connection in general is helpful.

As much as you’d like your work to speak for itself, you will be in the limelight, as well as everything you bring to the table. This would be the time to refrain from whipping out hand drawn sketches on napkins, as well as presentation notes scribbled on post-it notes, but you do have many options in your favor. Depending on what you are presenting, you can utilize projectors/large screen monitors, mounting your work on boards in a traditionally sense, or creating a booklet to showcase your designs. It’s smart to think about the final application of the work, and present it in that vein. For instance, I prefer to present interactive comps on screen, but show print collateral samples printed out, as they’d appear if they were produced.

Some suggestions are listed below:

  • Logos & Branding Exercises: Logos are used both in print and online, so my recommendation would be to present them in the way you feel most comfortable. I tend to set up three or four logos on a page so that a client can easily see a side-by-side comparison.


  • Website Comps: Websites are best presenting on a monitor, as opposed to printed out because that is their natural state. The colors are truer, and it’s extremely important to see the scale and size of content on a monitor or device. In this case, I like to factor in how many people I’ll be presenting to. For instance, if I know that I’ll be presenting web designs to a room of stakeholders, I prefer to show everything on a large monitor or projector. But, if I’m only speaking with one person, a tablet often times provides a more intimate setting, and a more accurate representation of size. Please note that in this specific case, responsive design layouts must be considered in the presentation, and it may be advantageous to use a laptop instead.Another variable to consider in a website presentation is whether you are presenting flat comps that are solely for design options, or whether you are showing a workflow or use case scenario. Sometimes it is important to show how functionality on a website, for something small like a hover state or for something a detailed as showing how a user might navigate through multiple pages on the site. I highly recommend that this be shown on a monitor so that you can navigate through yourself, and guide the presentation live. Regardless of whether you are using general image maps or a developed, functional site, it is important to give the client the experience of clicking through your site.
  • Printed Marketing or Advertising Materials: I would absolutely print these pieces out and show them to the client in a way that mimics their final produced state as closely as possible. Comp things up if necessary, like business cards and envelopes. You have the opportunity when you are in person, so take advantage of it. Just make sure that your mock-ups are neat, because you are opening up an additional space for judgment.


That being said, regardless of how you present when you are in person, you should always make sure that your comps are neat. There is nothing worse than printouts that are sloppy. We will touch on this more in Lesson 2, but it’s extremely important to have a fresh, clean presentation if you are sitting across the table from your client. People like to touch and feel and handle pieces of paper. Nice paper and good printing can make a home run, but a coffee stain on the corner or remnants from last night’s dinner is a deal breaker.

One last recommendation if you are presenting in person is to leave printouts behind. If your presentation is solid, the client will have a ton of information swirling through their brain. In most circumstances, it is hard to digest everything and make a decision on the fly, and I would never expect that from a client. It’s best to give them a minute to let everything soak in. Let your designs marinate in their brains. They’ll likely want to review and revisit the information and options that you presented, and nothing is better than print outs to refresh their memory. I’m not saying that everything needs to be comped up for them, or printed at full size, etc. But, the more you can leave behind the better. Clients want to show people. They want to solicit opinions (even if that only tends to confuse their decisions). And they’ll be thrilled if you push over a neatly clipped stack of designs for them to keep.

Now, on the flip side, if you are working remotely and have to have your meeting from a distance, you have some options:

  • Email Designs & Follow-Up: This is the simplest option, and works well for small clients. If I’m presenting logo options or annual report design options to a client, I will often times put a well-designed, organized .pdf packet together and email it to the client. You need to realize that a well-put together presentation is extremely important in this instance because it’s standing alone, without you there to explain it immediately upon delivery. Wrap everything up into a self-standing shell that gives the client some background and explanation. For example, I recently designed three annual report options for a client. It’s a large organization, and I know that everything is designed by committee. Unfortunately, the client is hours away, and I couldn’t present the three options in person. So, instead of just sending over nine .jpgs (three options that each included a cover and two sample pages), I created a .pdf with a cover (including the presentation title and my company’s logo), a summation of the assignment and goals, a page describing the look and feel of each one of the three design options, and then included the nine pages full size, as they’d appear in an actual annual report. Click here to view Visual Attachment B
  • The client emailed me back immediately, telling me how much she appreciated the packet because she had to forward it to the team and was thrilled that everything she needed (mostly the explanations) were included. I recommend keeping this in mind for any project – Even if you are emailing over quick logo designs, always account for the fact that you are not there is person to explain your designs.
  • Online Meeting Tools: There are many powerful meeting tools with both instant and interactive screen sharing. There’s nothing worse than starting a meeting off on the wrong foot because of hiccups in technology. Something free, instant, intuitive, and that requires few signups or downloads is important. The focus should be on your pitch or presentation, and the vehicle shouldn’t get in the way. Online meeting tools are excellent for presentations connecting many people in different locations, and often times offer scheduled calendar reminders that mimic in-person meetings. Some great online meeting tool options are:

And, similarly to presenting your information in person, it’s important to provide the clients with a leave behind. So, if you use an online meeting tool, I would recommend emailing a soft copy of the deliverables to the client either beforehand or after the meeting to review at their own pace.

Interested in finessing your in-house managing skills?
Sign up for the In-House Management Certification program.