TRANSFORM CORPORATE CREATIVE TEAMS INTO THOUGHT LEADERS
An Interview With Andre Paquin, InSource President
During these uncertain economic times, why do you think that now, more than ever, it makes sense for in-house creatives to become active participants in the InSource community?
Actively participating in anything creates visibility, it grows your own personal brand. People get to know who you are and recognize you for who you are. Engaging with others in the InSource community is a great way to promote your brand and get the recognition you deserve. Engaging your peer member audience is also a great way to build community. InSource is a great sandbox to share your toys in.
How can InSource develop a shared vision for success that stimulates (and celebrates!) the work and achievements of in-house creative teams?
Tough question… a shared vision for success. One man’s success may be another’s shortcoming. We are all unique and see life through different lenses. The design community struggles with credibility all the time. In the 1980s we saw the onset of “desktop publishing” and everyone and their aunt suddenly was given the tools to “design(?).” Even in certain disciplines within the design profession there are strata and divisions. A “web designer” is a broad term. Many of the most hideous websites I’ve ever seen were created by “web designers.” Feel sorry for the classically trained designer who plies his trade online and has to compete with the very same moniker.
One of our very own members (and an advisory board member), Justin Knecht, works for an organization whose sole purpose is to quantify the value of design for business leaders. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The organization advocates for design and for designers. There’s much we can learn from the Center for Design Innovation in Ireland. How can InSource help its members? Exposure! All of us are exposed to one another through this conduit we call InSource. What is your vision for success? Let’s begin the conversation now, here on the InSource Forum.
How do you characterize InSource as a resource for in-house creatives as compared with other organizations in the design world?
InSource focuses on matters close to the heart of corporate/institutional creative service leaders. These matters are cultural differences that may not be inherent for creative leaders “on the agency side” of the client/agency equation. Many organizations exist to serve the interests of designers, and many corporate/institutional creative service leaders belong to these organizations as well. Many of us who have worked in corporate America understand that designers and creative service teams support initiatives that help drive business and contribute to the bottom line, whether your employer manufactures furniture, pharmaceuticals or feathers. On the agency side of the equation, your employer produces creative solutions to help their clients sell more furniture, pharmaceuticals and feathers. In many agencies, the business is led by creative individuals whereas with most corporate manufacturers, businesses are driven by executives with MBAs and finance degrees.
InSource helps the corporate creative world cope with the conundrums of corporate chaos. In many cases, the value of creative organizations inside corporate America are seen as little more than “art departments.” At InSource, our aim is to be the advocate for corporate creative professionals and help position our services as a valuable asset – one that complements business marketers and bean counters and helps drive innovation and creative business thinking. Our aim is to reposition “in-house” creative departments as value-added communication consultants and branding advisors. We want to turn the model around from “order takers to thought leaders.”
What plans does InSource have to support its members who may be vulnerable to substantial work-related upheaval in the coming year?
In 2009, InSource will partner to bring our members an industry job board where members will be able to search and sort posted positions, receive alerts fitting their specified profile and keep them abreast of opportunities available in the creative community. This year we will be appointing a Director of Member Services (a volunteer position), responsible for leading member-focused initiatives. We will be creating an InSource member directory available to all members to facilitate networking and open communication. We will be continuing participation in the LinkedIn InSource User Group, where members can participate in open discussions with all LinkedIn members. We will also be looking to form affinity relationships with value-added service providers that will offer benefits and discounts for all members. This year we will be reassessing our current membership fees and expanding opportunities for a variety of different options for membership. We will also be exploring opportunities for forming special interest groups within our membership to provide opportunities for those interested in a wide variety of different, but related, topics – a chance to share personal experiences.
What direction do you think the InSource community needs to position itself as we move forward in 2009?
I’ve often thought about just how far the design profession has come just in my lifetime. I remember beginning my career in 1979, fresh out of the Rochester Institute of Technology, attending conferences and presentations in Chicago, where I was a member of The American Center for Design. At that time the rhetoric wasn’t too different than the rhetoric I hear today coming from some of the InSource members I’ve had the fortune of meeting over the past year or so. Thirty years ago, I heard people talk of convincing business of the value of design and how important it would
be to integrate design into business planning. And today, I can’t imagine any business competing without having design as an integral part of its plan.
In 2009, we see some very talented people stand in line at the unemployment office (I’ve been there myself). Among other things, networking will be increasingly more important for career development. Staying connected with colleagues with whom you’ve worked and with whom you’ve shared experiences with is critical in moving your professional career forward. This year, InSource has appointed a Director of Professional Development who will focus on ways InSource can help build community interaction for our members. I urge each of you to conduct a professional assessment of your personal “brand.” As we all know, making the right first impression can go a long way in establishing personal credibility with your peers.
I also want each of you to think about how your value cannot stand alone. Each of us is a small cog in a bigger machine. That machine is made up of marketers, sales people, finance people, executives, clients. Alone, we cannot hope to accomplish what we can as a team. Together, the machine produces. Recognize and respect all your business partners and they, in turn, will respect your contribution.
Do you see any potential opportunities for InSource to build bridges with other organizations that also care about building community among in-house creatives?
InSource is keenly interested in building diverse partnerships and collaboration for the betterment of our members. After all, many organizations have very similar mantras, but may look at things differently. We welcome unique perspectives. This year, I plan to explore opportunities to collaborate and partner with other creative organizations, both domestic and abroad, that can add meaningful value for InSource members.
How can InSource help its members address morale issues in the workplace and help sustain a positive attitude about the work of creative teams?
As I mentioned earlier, this is a two-way street. Gaining respect for the personal contribution among your peers is something everyone wishes for, not just designers. Turn the tables, put yourself in your business partners’ place and I think you’ll recognize that it’s a human emotion, not just an inferiority complex, designers are affected with. If you seek admiration, then do something admirable. If you feel misunderstood, then ask yourself if your point is coming across clearly. If you don’t feel included, then include yourself – reach out and take initiative. If you feel like all you’re doing is taking orders, look in the mirror. Leadership isn’t reserved for your staff of designers. It’s a quality you can volunteer with your business partners. If you’ve got morale issues, then stop whining and do something about it and include your internal clients so that they get to see you and your team in a different light. Take them bowling! Make them your friends!
How did you first learn about InSource? What attracted you personally to become involved with InSource?
Of the research I had conducted about the topic of innovation, one of the most important principles of innovation is “customer focus.” As designers, we’re taught to think about the challenge from many different points of view, most importantly from the end-user, or customer, point of view. So when I heard the “bitching and moaning” start up, it was all I could do not to scream “haven’t you all forgotten the golden rule in design?”
I didn’t scream, but I did stand up and nervously criticized this audience of designers. I’m glad I took the initiative because Glenn Arnowitz, an original co-founder of InSource and current advisory board member, approached me and thanked me for speaking up, agreeing with much of what I had said. I thanked him and nervously “slunk (wow, I can’t believe Microsoft Word’s automatic spellcheck let that go!)” out of the room. I followed up that meeting with an email to Glenn and to Martin Shova, president of InSource at the time), asking them how I could get involved. Now I haven’t been a corporate design leader for 5 years, but I believed that my experiences have been very unique and put me in a very good position to bring objectivity and experience to bear to an organization that could be easy enough to only look inward.
I was invited to a board meeting and the rest is history. This year I begin my term as President. Be careful what you wish for!
What is one example of how your involvement with InSource has had a positive impact on your work?
My involvement with InSource has helped me become more engaged in the issues in the design community. I can identify with the membership, having spent half my career with companies such as Kraft General Foods, RJR Nabisco, International Playtex and most recently as the Director of Branding & Creative Services for Wells Fargo. I also can identify with all designers, having spent the other half of my career with global branding and identity firms including Interbrand, FutureBrand, Siegel+Gale, Enterprise IG and, for the past 5 years, a self-employed design consultant. I’m not sure why, but InSource is where I’ve chosen to engage with my professional colleagues. I’m glad I have.
What keeps you motivated and inspired in your work?
There’s nothing like a good challenge to me – whether it’s a strategic branding exercise or a 170 mile bike ride to raise money for a good cause. I’m a creative thinker and become impatient with the actual graphic design process at times. I like blue skies and blank sheets.
What do you find satisfying about working with in-house creative teams?
Chemistry is everything. I had the honor of working with a very talented team of designers, writers and production professionals during my time at Wells Fargo. We were different – very different. We conducted Monday morning WIP (work-in-progress) meetings where, many times we left in tears – tears of happiness. Our team was incredibly productive, well respected among our peers and valued as consultants (many times our internal clients met with us to formulate strategies and develop product attributes). We were recognized as internal consultants rather than the “art department” taking orders.
What are some key leadership principles that guide you personally?
Perspective is important. In the grand scheme of things, what many of us do is contribute to landfills and clutter. We don’t cure cancer, perform brain surgery or launch rockets, but without our perspective life would be less clear and less interesting. We provide entertainment and function. Walter Gropius, world famous architect of the Bauhaus coined the phrase “form follows function,” meaning that if it doesn’t work, no amount of sugar coating and icing will make a bad cake taste good. Designers must keep perspective (and I shouldn’t be mixing my metaphors!).
What changes would you like to see happen during the coming year to make InSource an even stronger organization?
Engagement. I’ve always said that the real value in InSource isn’t with us, the directors. It’s with you, our members. The real value is in the experiences of each one of us. How I approach positioning my team is different than how you motivate yours. This year will be the year we ask our members to step up to the plate. There are several ways every one of us can become engaged. First and foremost, you can take a leadership position and help make this the organization our members want it to be. Our directors meet once a month (you’ll begin seeing the summaries from each of our meetings posted right here on our website). You can volunteer to help a director with the list of initiatives we have on our plate to accomplish in 2009. You can join us at our public events in the spring and the fall, where you can hear from some of the industry leaders and from your own InSource colleagues. You can share your experiences at our roundtable meetings with other InSource members. This year, our aim is to provide online and in-person informal meetings where members can discuss a wide variety of topics. And, you can start or join a conversation on our member forum at www.in-source.org.
What are you currently reading, watching and listening to? What do you like to do in your spare time (in addition to doing volunteer work for InSource)?
I must be honest, I don’t have the time or the patience to read anymore (I’ve fallen victim to media bombardment!). My dream is to fall asleep reading in the sun on the beach someday (then my head hits the keyboard and I wake up). My personal time is spent straddling a Cervelo road bike. I started riding seriously following knee surgery when I was age 28 and I haven’t stopped since. Last year I logged 3,000 (very low compared to a lot of people I know). I’m currently training for a 2-day 170 mile ride to Cape May, New Jersey, in late May (the fourth time I’ve ridden this charity ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society). I find riding a very spiritual and creative-thought provoking experience.