The likes of Apple notwithstanding, in-house teams are often the unsung heroes of design. It was particularly poignant last week, therefore, to see Waitrose head of graphic design Maggie Hodgetts and her team take the Grand Prix at the Design Business Association’s 2011 Design Effectiveness Awards for their work on the supermarket’s Essential Waitrose range of own-brand products (www.designweek.co.uk, 18 February).
Add to this an effectiveness award win for Lewis Moberly, commissioned by Hodgetts to design packaging for Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients Home Baking range, and you get insight into in-house life. It is not just about running a design studio, but also about briefing some of the best consultancies in the business.
In some 25 years at Waitrose, Hodgetts has run a successful studio and commissioned stars such as Lewis Moberly, Turner Duckworth and Williams Murray Hamm. In many ways, she has set the standard for own-brand packaging and this contributed hugely to the inclusion of the John Lewis Partnership subsidiary in this year’s Design Week Hot 50 (DW 27 January). Yet she and her team have pretty much shied away from the limelight.
This is often the case with in-house designers though some, such as Virgin Atlantic’s former design head Joe Ferry (now a senior vice-president at Intercontinental Hotels Group), are hardly anonymous. They are massive champions of design and use their positions in industry to promote it internally and externally.
It helps hugely if, like Jonathan Ive at Apple, Ferry at Virgin Atlantic and, indeed, Hodgetts within JLP, they work within a culture that values design at board level as a way to make products and services desirable to customers. It still takes consistent battling to ensure that it stays top of the agenda, though, so our congratulations go to Hodgetts and her team for reminding us of how well that commitment can pay off.