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I’m part of an in-house design department.  There are a lot of great things about my job: I get to be creative, I get to develop long-term relationships with my clients, and there is the security of a permanent job versus the world of freelance design work.

But in-house design departments face a number of unique challenges and, as I’m in the process of restructuring mine, it is proving difficult to find information online tailored to our specific circumstances. I came across this great post on the AIGA (an American-based professional association for design) site that asks the question “Can In-House Design Departments Be Respectable?“.   And as the title suggests, David C. Baker points out that in-house design teams can struggle to gain the respect of both their designer peers and the people within their company.

Here’s my video commentary on the article, and what I see as some of the challenges and benefits of an in-house design team.

In case you missed it, I do believe that in-house designers are respectable because no one knows their company and client’s needs better.  A lot of people have design skills, not everyone knows the ins and outs of the company.

I’d love to hear from other in-house designers about how they view their unique position. Do you ever feel short on respect? How do you sell your services within the company?  What conferences do you attend, or associations do you belong to, that support your in-house design strategies?

A quick follow up post on TheBrandBuilder’s adventures in positivity (see my previous post here) through his #StepfordTBB experiment.

When I started this #StepfordTBB experiment several days ago (the premise being “what would happen if I actually adopted the Social Media bull$hit I have been warning you about?”), little did I know that all of this stuff would actually work.” TheBrandBuilder blog, Oct 6, 2010

TheBrandBuilder graph of awesomeness aka traffic

What can a pink pony do for your business?

Olivier Blanchard, aka TheBrandBuilder, saw an incredible 305% increase in traffic to his blog the day after he adopted his My Little Pony profile pic and started spreading Social Media bull$hit. The next day it went up to 356%.  Those are some pretty amazing numbers for a campaign based on tweeting sweet nothings to followers of a cynical marketing professional.

It appears Olivier could only take his own sweetness for a few days and has already reverted back to his old twitter avatar, but the experiment continues to facinate me.  While I’m sure his site visits will level out in the coming weeks, I’m confident that others like myself are now adding the TheBrandBuilder blog to their regular sites to visit.  Which begs the question…

What can a pink pony do for your business?

The BrandBuilder Pony

The BrandBuilder Pony

This past Follow Friday (#FF in the Twitterverse) I signed up to follow Olivier Blanchard, aka thebrandbuilder. Branding and Marketing are right up my alley and we had several following/followers in common so it seemed like a good move.  2 days in and I’m very confused, yet very intrigued by his tweets. Case in point – he just switched his photo from handsome creative-type guy with glasses to a pink my little pony.  It’s all part of his new #StepfordTBB campaign.

As far as I can tell – being a new follower and all – he used to call it like he saw it with the good, the bad and the ugly of Social Media.  He offers criticism and strong opinions on Social Media marketing in hopes of driving the medium forward.  Over at his blog The BrandBuilder Blog he says it is a “blog about building strong brands through passion, innovation, creativity and common sense.” Smartly written with just enough pop culture to make the strategy go down easy, this is an admittedly funnier version of what I imagine my blog will become.

What Olivier is now doing over at his Twitter Account is, starting this afternoon, nothing less that a complete 180.  Fed up with taking flack for his opinionated tweets he has changed his tune.  “It’s going to be so awesome being 100% positive all the time. I’ve been doing this all wrong, seeing snake oil where there wasn’t any. His posts are coming fast and furious tonight, but are made of rainbows and unicorns, definitely no snake oil or (snake) bite to them.  He changed his Twitter bio to read “I used to call out BS. Now, I just agree with everyone.”  Looking at his Twitter feed I can see I’m not the only one confused yet intrigued by his new attitude. He’s doing an admirable job of interacting with his followers, replying to their frantic questions while staying in character.

How long this #StepfordTBB will continue is hard to say.  But just a few hours in, Olivier has managed to grab my attention from my crowded Twitter feed, make me Google to find his blog, check out where he’s based (South Carolina – I could have sworn he was a Vancouverite based on our shared contacts!!) and finally locate his company site The BrandBuilder Marketing. If I’m any indication, this sounds like a solid evening of work. Bravo Olivier!

My Goal: Less Season 1 Pam, more Season 4 Pam.

My Goal: Less Season 1 Pam, more Season 4 Pam.

And here he is, staring in my latest post for my Social Media Class at BCIT.  My social media persona is opinionated  – more so that I am in real life – which lead to a minor meltdown earlier this week as I questioned if I should be sharing these opinions with the world wide web.  What if someone I know finds this blog?  What if someone I work with reads this blog? But I have opinions on marketing-communications and creative campaigns and this seems like a “safe” place to share those opinions.  I’m using it as a training ground so that I’ll be more willing and able to speak up when I’m called upon to offer my expert opinion in the workplace. Clients and coworkers expect me to guide them. They trust me.  I need to learn to trust myself.

After his work today, I would definitely trust Olivier to take my brand to the next level.  I’d love to see what he could come up with.

I’m in the process of restructuring my in-house creative department at work.  Management is starting to push for the new department policy manual and job descriptions…yeah, I’ll get right on that in all the free time I have  (please note sarcasm here, I know it doesn’t always translate to the blogosphere).

Jerry Maguire

Embrace the "Mission Statement" when restructuring your In-House Creative Department

Regardless of workload, it must happen so here I am at home, Monday night, drinking leftover weekend bubbly, rocking out to Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” and writing the new mission statement a la Jerry Maguire.  Instead of sending it out to the company I think I’ll just blog about it – that would be the 2010 version of his mistake. Luckily I haven’t had THAT much bubbly so we’ll be fine.

I’m feeling especially inspired because of this fantastic blog In-House I.D. on the AIGA, the professional association for design.  They really nail the “second class” feeling that haunts in-house creative teams and the challenges of overcoming that notion.   It provided me with a great To Do List to guide me through this restructuring process.

HOW TO RESTRUCTURE YOUR IN-HOUSE CREATIVE TEAM

  • Have a team meeting (discuss strengths and weaknesses and vision for the future; get buy in from everyone)
  • Write a Department Mission Statement (clear purpose and identity)
  • Create a Visual Identity (brand yourself)
  • Produce a Capabilities Brochure
  • Gather Case Studies of Past Successes (to present to management and clients)
  • Costs (show what they are and where they come from)
  • Draft a Self-Promotion Marketing Plan (Announcement, Launch Plans, Emails for management and past and perspective clients)

Another great AIGA post is Can In-House Design Departments Be Respectable which offered these words of wisdom “…treat your clients as if you had to land them yourself and as if they were free to use anybody they wanted. If you don’t, they’ll eventually end up with that freedom and you’ll be looking for a job.”

I know my greatest challenge through this restructuring process will be to delegate. As much as I want to do it all, and have the control and  credit that will come with it, I need to recognize that it is a massive undertaking and the more I can share the burden, the stronger the final product will be.

I did come up with a fantastic new idea tonight to improve internal communications (an ongoing challenge) and I’ve decided that our new office space should look creative. I think I’ll have a chat about paint colours with my boss tomorrow… either that or a little Show Me the Money!

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