Industry News

In-House Designers: Break Those Boxes

There’s a box that creative professionals lock themselves into, one that’s totally self-constructed. “We can feel that our expertise is specific to our discipline,” writes Jamie Myrold, Adobe VP of Design, in an article for “We may be great designers, but we’re not qualified to speak on strategic business matters.”


In-house designers may be especially susceptible to this inside-the-box self-description because they work in an environment where every function is departmentalized. Accountants crunch numbers. Salespeople make sales calls. Researchers investigate new products. Creatives make the website look pretty.


But as we’ve seen, business is changing — becoming more collaborative, more cross-functional,


less siloed. That means designers need to break out of those self-imposed boxes and bring their creative and conceptual skills to solving non-visual problems.


A series of sessions at HOW Design Live geared toward in-house designers aims to help them do just that. Creatives working in-house, whether that’s for a global brand or a small nonprofit, will hear from corporate creative leaders about developing strategic skills, charting career pathways, developing better processes and improving collaboration.


As a designer, you have lots of different career paths open to you. But just because you land a job doesn’t mean your path ends; if you’re working in-house, especially in a huge organization, you might feel overwhelmed by your choices—or, perhaps, not entirely in control of your advancement. In her session  Play Into It: Finding Your Home InHouse, Vanessa Dewey, Mattel lead designer, will share her own experience of finding her way and her role within a major brand.


Even as companies embrace design, their internal creative teams may not be well-equipped to seize that seat at the leadership table. Stephen Gates, global head of design at Citi, brings his 12+ years of experience to Boston. His presentation, In-House Powerhouse: How to Build and Manage an Empowered In-House Team, will offer practical advice on defining your design team’s vision, building an empowered culture and advance your team from order-takers to strategy-makers.


For Twitter design producer Josh Silverman, paying attention to the configuration of teams, the ways we all prefer to work and how we collaborate leads to happier teams, better work and stronger collaboration. His presentation, What Persists: People, Process and Performance, offers a road map for building smarter, more successful teamwork.



Plus, when you’re among a handful of designers in a company, there’s a social benefit to connecting with your peers at HOW Design Live. In an interview on, Dewey notes that it’s important for in-house designers to get out of their cubes and meet other creatives. Looking forward to HOW Design Live, she says, she anticipates “connecting with people, connecting with more designers out there, and meeting more people. But also, reconnecting with people that might be on the East Coast or that I haven’t even met in person.”




HOW Design Live programming is developed and taught by in-house creatives for in-house designers. Browse the full conference agenda. Want to really wow the boss? Be sure to register before March 15 to save up to $500 off your HOW Design Live Big Ticket.


Want to forge a more productive working relationship with your marketing colleagues? Invite them to HOW Marketing Live — and upgrade your own Big Ticket to include HML for just $99.


By Bryn Mooth