“We can react with a level of speed that is difficult for agencies,” said Tina McKenzie, manager of Creative Services at The City of Mississauga. McKenzie’s team includes over 15 in-house and external clients like the recently re-invisioned Art Gallery of Mississauga. One of the ways her team built up the internal and external reputation of the design division was by entering a lot of awards programs. The resulting credibility led to a greater role in a number of projects, including Mississauga’s new city branding.
Andy Epstein of the Boss Group added that the prevalence of social media in modern brand building has increased the value of institutional knowledge–agencies can’t “live the brand” in the same way in-house teams can. And thanks to lowering costs of technologies like video, companies are increasingly able to bring those capabilities in-house as well.
All of this has impacted the importance of hiring the right staff. For Willy Wong, most recently the leader of Brand Stewardship at NYC & Company (i.e. the city of New York), it’s not enough for job applicants to be highly skilled. “It’s not just whether or not they delivered, but also whether they cared enough to own the brand,” he said. In some ways, Wong says, more pressure is on designers working in an in-house environment. “You have so much access that you better deliver damn good work.”
Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter, said “there’s always that period at the beginning when you’re figuring things out”–hence paying someone for hourly work can feel like money flying out the window. He advised new team members to voice their opinions and try to be objective about the work. “What did clients all want? My honest opinions. They didn’t want sugar-coated opinions that were about putting our hand further into the cookie jar. The way you get more work is by having an opinion,” he said. “The easiest design question to ask is ‘why?'”
Designedge Canada was a media partner for DesignThinkers 2014.