There’s no need to frown upon in-house designers

I could never understand why British designers look down their noses at what we call in-house designers. Where would Nike, Apple, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Whirlpool, Sony, Tupperware, Lamborghini, Renault, Nissan or any other automobile company be without them?

I remember learning that one British design organisation did not allow in-house designers to be members, yet, Jonathan Ive, an exceptional British designer, works at Apple Computer. Would he be an exception to the rule? I could provide the names of many design superstars so ensconced and I doubt that top consultancies would not be interested in them.

In-house design started in Europe when AEG hired Peter Behrens in 1906 to design its visual identity, advertising and products. His staff included Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. In the 1950s, that success inspired Thomas Watson to hire Eliot Noyes. He went on to establish design centres for IBM, which for many years designed quality communication, products and environments globally.

One reason for the widespread understanding in organisations of the strategic value of design in the US comes from the results of a design process that has been imbedded by a top design manager. Marketing, engineering, administrative and financial people in these companies get the message and spread the word.

Many in-house teams also work with outside design groups. Some, like Procter & Gamble, do all design concepts in-house and implement them by working with the best design groups. Many organisations have in-house design groups and also work with consultancies. There is no one way to organise a design function.

None of the candidates we approached for jobs last year said they weren’t interested in working on the corporate side. When recruiting of British designers to the US was more common, such an idea was never rejected.

RitaSue Siegel


RitaSue Siegel Resources

New York City, US

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