Waitrose team prize win reminds us of the design talent residing in-house


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.

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  • Mark Fanthorpe November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It is a real credit to the internal design team at Waitrose that the quality of their work is so high. Designers working in internal company teams often suffer from being seen as limited or hamstrung by the restrictions of the brand/company they represent. My own experience, when I ran the internal design team at the Estee Lauder Group (many years ago), was that independent design businesses tended to look down on internal company teams as not being quite in the same league! I believe, and time has only hardened my views, that the constraints of working within an internal team create stronger and more commercially aware design thinking. Any designer within an internal team has to rapidly learn the arts of communication, persuasion, tact and perhaps most importantly timing when trying to coax management driven by ‘bottom line’ rather than the quality of their presentation to their customer. All these skills, I believe, are now essential in the running of my own design business.
    So, as you say, congratulations should go not only to the internal design team at Waitrose but also the management who allow and seem to encourage good quality work to prevail.

    If only more companies understood the real value of design!

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