Corporate creative teams and agencies have so much to offer one another. In-house corporate teams are strong in their abilities to live a brand, knowing the ins and outs of a particular product or service. Agencies are champions with process, promotion, and keeping current with trends. All of these traits are necessary in the production of visual communications and business solutions.

The xCHANGE conference have hosted hundreds of in-house groups, and we hear that one of the largest challenges is a “lack of respect” for design strategy within an organization. This is why we recommend in-house groups poise themselves as the creative experts, and function like a design firm.

Its very simple.

In-house groups need to align their departments to be the agency of choice for their organizations. Obviously companies have options for who they use to further their vision and business goals. The first question to ask is, “why are they not choosing the in-house group?” Sometimes the answer is simple: overflow, politics, etc. However, sometimes the answer lies in a lack of respect. This is a harsh reality to face because it probably means that the company believes they can get better service, a better outcome and more value outside of the existing department. This is the misconception that must change. And it won’t change by complaining or by being complacent.

Think about it. This is a problem every business must overcome; “how will I get my customer to notice me, choose me, use me and come back for more?” In-house departments should function no differently. This can be one of the most exciting initiatives for corporate creative teams. It starts with asking “who is our client, what do they want and do we have the capabilities to give them what they need?” These questions must be investigated and answered truthfully. This is the very foundation on which everything else must build.

Beyond the foundation or core business offering, in-house teams need to market themselves to the internal decision makers. In-house groups often assume something along the lines of “We work for the organization; therefore we should automatically get the business.” Isn’t this a bit of an entitled attitude?

You have to ask for the business and prove that your team can produce the best possible product before they even walk in the door and, ultimately, earn their trust.

Another interesting observation within corporate creative teams is that of professional development, or lack thereof. Having worked with hundreds of in-house creative and communications departments, we’re always shocked by the low percentage of designers that pursue opportunities to expand their capabilities. At an agency, the competition, as well as the vast diversity of projects, requires designers to stay plugged-in to the latest trends and forces them to always look for ways to improve their skills. Agencies typically surround their teams with creative inspiration and colorful environments. In-house designers should be no different. These teams need to stay competitive for the good of their own careers as well as the good of their client’s business.

Keep in mind that most clients, whether internal or external, are looking to further their brand recognition and see ROI from marketing campaigns, visual communications, and product design. Design is about solving problems, big or small. Providing a client with successful solutions is the core of what makes a good designer and a valuable design team.

You have a chance to learn from your design colleagues on all projects involving multiple creatives. Put your ego aside and take advantage of these opportunities. If you want to take it a step further, attend events for design leaders. xCHANGE is one such event. Leave your office for the day to reset, learn, and meet the local creative leadership pool in your area. These are rich meetups, full of connection and inspiration.

Please add comments below with your thoughts and experiences. Design is a collaborative process, so let’s collaborate!


– Adam Fry-Pierce and Jeni Herberger, Co-Founders of xCHANGE and The Fulcrum Agency